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21 Jun, 2022 22:49

‘Broad consensus’ for Ukraine to become EU candidate – French minister

However, Kiev's accession to the union could be conditional, Clement Baune told reporters
‘Broad consensus’ for Ukraine to become EU candidate – French minister

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told reporters on Tuesday that there is a “fairly broad consensus” within the EU on making Ukraine a candidate for membership, along with Georgia and Moldova. But it remains unclear just how many countries ultimately support Ukraine’s membership bid, and Beaune cautioned that Kiev’s accession could be conditional.

Beaune was speaking at a news conference following a meeting of EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg and ahead of an EU summit in Brussels later this week. The bloc’s leaders will likely decide at this summit whether to officially bestow candidate status upon Ukraine, a decision that the EU Commission is fully behind.

There is a “fairly broad consensus” for granting EU candidate status to Ukraine, as well as to Moldova and Georgia, both of which applied for membership in early March, days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted his country’s application.

Beaune cautioned that the conditions for entry “are not going to be quite probably the same for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia,” and that all three states’ petitions “have been treated differently with a different set of conditions, ways and means.”

There is widespread concern over Ukraine’s ability to meet the demands of EU membership, with the country’s notoriously high level of corruption and recent crackdown on the press and opposition parties threatening to scupper its EU ambitions. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has claimed that the Zelensky government has instituted some anti-corruption and rule-of-law reforms but added that EU officials would “want to see results on the ground” before making Ukraine a full-fledged member.

Beaune stated that following the visit last week of French, German and Italian leaders to Kiev, “there seems to be general political will right now, to tell Ukraine, as a very strong symbol, that time is right for them to start discussing the prospect of their accession.”

Beaune’s statement conflicts with earlier reports suggesting that the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria could vote against the Ukrainian bid over the corruption concerns. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in particular has publicly stated that even candidacy could be “very far away” for Kiev.

At the end of May, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that Rome was the only major EU capital to back Kiev’s candidacy, although Paris and Berlin have since come out in favor of “immediately” granting Ukraine’s request.

Receiving candidate status is the first step in a long journey toward EU membership. Turkey has been an EU candidate since 1999, while Montenegro has been under consideration for membership since 2012.