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EU to open membership talks with Ukraine

EU to open membership talks with Ukraine


European leaders have agreed to open EU membership talks with Ukraine, in a move hailed as a “victory” by the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, announced on X on Thursday that it would “open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova” and had granted candidate status to Georgia.

The move was “a clear signal of hope for their people and for our continent,” Michel tweeted.

The news was promptly welcomed by the Ukrainian leader.

“This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens,” Zelensky posted on X following the announcement.

“History is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom,” Zelensky said.

The announcement by the European Council comes nearly two years after the bloc accepted Ukraine as a candidate state, though Ukraine has held ambitions to join the EU for more than a decade.

It sends a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin following concerns that the West had lost interest in supporting Kyiv.

However, a few fundamental obstacles still stand in the way of Ukraine joining the bloc.

Ukraine is not going to be allowed to bypass the process that all countries must go through before joining the EU and in all, it could still be a decade until Ukraine actually joins the EU and can enjoy the benefits of full membership.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky (L) shakes hands with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola as he arrives for a summit at EU parliament in Brussels, on February 9, 2023. - Ukraine's President is set to attend an EU summit in Brussels on February 9, 2023, as the guest of honour where he will press allies to deliver fighter jets

Ukraine will likely still need to meet the conditions of the Copenhagen Criteria – an opaque trio of requirements that the EU must be satisfied are met – before moving to the next stage of negotiations.

The critera focus on whether or not a candidate country has a functioning free-market economy, if the country’s institutions are fit to uphold European values such as human rights and the EU’s interpretation of the rule of law, and whether the country has a functioning, inclusive democracy.

All of those things are hard to prove for any country let alone one currently under invasion and in a state of war.

If Ukraine can meet the Copenhagen Criteria, EU and Ukrainian officials can start negotiating under the 35 Chapters of the Acquis, which lay out the accession conditions. All chapters of negotiations must be fully closed, signed off by every EU member state, then ratified by EU parliament.

Despite the remaining obstacles, Thursday’s announcement was celebrated by many European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who wrote on X that “it’s clear these countries belong to the European family.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, called the decision “strategic” and “a day that will remain engraved in the history” of the European Union.

“Proud that we have lived up to our promises and delighted for our partners,” she said.

Hungary and its Prime Minister Viktor Oban have proved to be the most significant barrier to Ukraine regarding further EU funding and accession talks.

Earlier this week, Orban claimed that Ukraine still needs to meet three of the seven conditions necessary to greenlight accession talks and, therefore, said there was no current reason to negotiate EU membership for Ukraine.

Orban Thursday called the announcement that Ukraine was beginning accession negotiations “a completely senseless, irrational and incorrect decision,” adding that his country “did not participate in the decision today.”

“Hungary’s position is clear; Ukraine is not prepared to start negotiations on EU Membership,” Orban said in a post on X.

“On the other hand, 26 other countries insisted that decision be made,” he continued. “Therefore, Hungary decided that if the 26 decide to do so, they should go their own way. Hungary does not want to share in this bad decision.”

This is a developing news story. More to come

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