How could Ukraine become a member of the EU and what does Russia say?

The headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels displaying the colors of the Ukrainian flag in May 2022source of images, Getty Images

Ukraine has become an official candidate for European Union (EU) membership, the first step to joining the organization.

The process could take years and there is no guarantee of success. Moldova has also obtained EU candidate status.

What is the EU?

Goods, services and money flow freely between member countries. EU citizens can live and work anywhere in the Union.

It operates a single European currency, the Euro, which is used by more than 340 million people in 19 of its nations.

Members apply the same standards in areas such as food safety, agriculture and employment rights.

Why does Ukraine want to join?

President Volodymyr Zelensky launched the application for EU membership five days after the Russian invasion.

He asked to join immediately.

source of images, Gerty Pictures

Ukraine applied for EU membership in February 2022

There would be financial benefits to joining the EU.

However, Ukraine’s main motive is not economic, argues Dr Zach Paikin of the Center for European Policy Studies think tank.

“EU membership would firmly establish Ukraine as an independent and sovereign European state,” he said. “Not just a part of the Russian world.”

How did Russia react?

However, the Kremlin said it would give “increased attention” to the bid as the EU considers its own defense force.

“The military, defense and security components are under discussion,” he added. “We are of course observing all of this extensively.”

“Obviously we should expect more hostile activity from Russia,” he said. “And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries.”

How do countries join the EU?

It examines whether it has a stable and democratic government, respects human rights and has a free market economy.

source of images, Getty Images

All current EU members must agree before a new country can become a candidate.

If successful, it must adopt all EU laws and regulations. This normally takes several years.

Finally, the country signs a treaty that all other EU countries must formally approve.

How long does EU membership last?

For the newcomers, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, it took between 10 and 12 years.

Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have been official candidates for years, but their applications have stalled.

How would Ukraine fit into the EU?

  • Largest land mass of any EU country: 603,550 km² (233,032 sq mi). Without counting the French overseas departments
  • Fifth largest population: 44.13 million
  • Ukraine’s annual GDP per capita is $3,724 (£3,040), a ninth of the EU average
  • It already sells 30% of all the cereals it imports to the EU.

Since 2017, Ukraine has been able to trade with EU states without paying customs duties – taxes on goods sent between countries – under a so-called Association Agreement.

As part of its preparation to apply for membership, Ukraine has already amended many of its laws and regulations to comply with EU standards.

What else should Ukraine do?

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “good work has been done”, but Ukraine needs to make further “significant reforms”.

source of images, APE

Wearing the colors of Ukraine, Ms von der Leyen said she wanted the country to ‘live with us in the European dream’

These include strengthening the rule of law, improving human rights, reducing the power of the oligarchs and fighting corruption.

Another challenge will be to clean up Ukraine’s judicial system, which has been widely criticized.

How has EU membership helped newcomers?

The EU has given tens of billions of euros to both countries to support economic development – for example, building new roads and new ports.

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Post expires at 2:23pm on Monday July 4th, 2022