European Commission to support Ukraine’s EU candidate status – Politico
The European Commission is to support giving EU candidate nation status to Ukraine, Politico reported on Monday.
Several anonymous officials “familiar with the debate among commissioners” told the media outlet that among the factors which tipped the scales in Kiev’s favor were the sacrifices Ukrainians have made so far, as well as the need to make it clear to the Kremlin that Ukraine will never again be part of its sphere of influence.
“The Commission does not forget that Ukraine is the only country in Europe where people died, where people were shot at because they were on the streets carrying EU flags,” one senior official explained. “Now, we cannot tell them, ‘sorry guys, you were waving the wrong flags,‘” he added.
According to Politico, this was one of the arguments Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used during Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s surprise visit to Kiev on Saturday when he tried to convince the EU boss that his country deserves the much-coveted status. The Ukrainian president reportedly said that by recognizing them as an EU candidate nation, the bloc would give Ukraine a much-needed morale boost in the face of the ongoing Russian offensive.
The final decision, however, rests with the European Council, made up of the heads of state and government of all 27 EU member states. They are expected to decide the matter at a summit in Brussels next week.
Ukraine will need the unanimous support of all member states to obtain candidate status.
However, Politico, citing officials and diplomats, noted that at least three countries were apparently opposed to the move.
Last Thursday, Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European integration, also spoke of three nations which were staunchly against Kiev. The official, however, stopped short of naming them.
Ukrainian and European media outlets, citing anonymous officials, have named the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria as the countries that do not believe Ukraine fulfills all the requirements for candidate status.
Meanwhile, several nations have suggested alternative schemes other than the candidate status route.
In early May, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed creating a “European political community” as a stopgap measure for countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, which could still be decades away from accession to the EU proper, according to the French leader.
In Macron’s eyes, this would help strengthen these nations’ relations with the EU and give them some additional perks while they are evolving to become fit for full membership.
A spokesperson for the French president told Politico recently that even if Ukraine was granted candidate status, the road ahead would still be long and winding. He also noted that “all the other candidates… have been waiting sometimes for a very long time” – in what may be a reference to several Western Balkan countries, such as North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Albania, which all became EU candidate nations more than a decade ago.
France is currently presiding over the Council of the EU and as such is in charge of organizing the debate on Ukraine’s candidacy.
On February 28, just days after Russia attacked the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lodged Kiev’s official application for EU candidate status.
As Igor Zhovkva, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, indicated to Politico, Kiev was determined to win over unconvinced EU nations and would not settle for any substitute, like the one suggested by President Macron.
“We really deserve the next logical step, which is candidate status,” Zhovkva argued, adding that “it’s far away from membership. It’s not even opening the accession negotiations. We deserve this, at least.”
The official emphasized that Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline were fighting and dying “not only for Ukraine,” but also “for European values,” so that their country could become a “part of the European Union family.”