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11 Jun, 2022 14:22

Researchers name major obstacles to Ukraine’s EU bid

Norwegian experts claim that corruption, instability, poverty and issues with democracy would prevent Kiev from swift accession
Researchers name major obstacles to Ukraine’s EU bid

Norwegian researchers have identified five factors that are likely to prevent Ukraine from quickly joining the European Union, as was stated in an interview they gave with the TV channel NRK.

Ukraine submitted its official application for EU membership on February 28, four days after Russia attacked the country. EU leaders are expected to issue a decision during the bloc’s summit on June 23-24 about whether to give Kiev candidate status. The unanimous support of all 27 member nations is needed for the status to be granted.

To enter the EU, a country must have “full democracy, the rule of law and a free market,” said Jarle Trondal, an EU expert and professor of political science at the universities of Oslo and Agder. However, Ukraine even prior to the Russian offensive was “an extremely shaky country,” he noted.

The first obstacle on Ukraine’s road to the EU is widespread corruption, Jorn Holm-Hansen, a Ukraine expert and researcher at Oslo Metropolitan University, claimed. He explained that from this point of view the situation in Ukraine is worse than even in the most corrupt countries of the EU. According to the Amnesty International Corruption Perception Index, Ukraine’s 2021 score was down by 1 point versus 2020 and is now 32 on a 100-point scale. Bulgaria, the most corrupt country in the EU according to the index, has a score of 42.

Issues with the rule of law and democracy are the second reason why Kiev should not hope for a quick accession to the EU, Holm-Hansen claimed. The Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit classifies Ukraine as a “hybrid regime.” This definition applies to nations with regular electoral fraud, pressure on the political opposition, non-independent judiciaries and other factors preventing them from being considered full democracies.

The oligarchs, the big capital owners, have great economic and political control,” Holm-Hansen said, naming this the third obstacle on the path to the EU for Ukraine.

Poverty, war and nationalism” are revealed as the fourth one.

The average salary is less than half of what they get in the poorest country in the EU, Bulgaria,” Holm-Hansen said, referring to the website Worlddata.info.

The instability caused by the eight years of tensions with Moscow culminating in the current conflict with Russia makes Kiev’s accession to the EU a “political impossibility,” Trondal added.

Ukraine’s issues with nationalism are embodied most vividly in the infamous Azov regiment, whose members openly proclaim neo-Nazi views. When the Russian offensive started, the Azov fighters were tasked with defending Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov. After eventually being holed up at the sprawling Azovstal plant near the city, many of them surrendered to Russian and allied forces. Footage of the surrendering combatants emerging from the plant showed many of them sporting tattoos of swastikas and other far-right symbols. Nazi-related items and literature have also been discovered inside the factory and at Azov bases in the Donbass that have been captured by Russia.

On May 9, as Russia celebrated its victory over Nazi Germany, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a photo of a Ukrainian soldier wearing a totenkopf (death’s head) patch of the 3rd SS Panzer Division. In March, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry tweeted out photos of female soldiers clearly displaying the sonnenrad (black sun) symbol used by the German SS and now by the Azov militia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called actions of Kiev towards the Donbass population “genocide,” and Moscow’s stated objective for sending troops into Ukraine in February was to “demilitarize and denazify” the country.

The US and its allies who support Ukraine, however, have accused Russia of inventing or exaggerating the existence of Nazism in the country.

The final reason why Ukraine will likely have to wait for EU membership is that certain other EU countries, notably Germany, believe that fast-tracking Ukraine would be unfair to candidate countries such as North Macedonia and Montenegro, which has been waiting for years to join the bloc, NRK reports.

Ukraine can achieve candidate status but will probably have to go through a long process to satisfy the criteria for membership step by step,” Trondal said.

Following submission of the EU membership application, Zelensky called for his country's immediate incorporation into the 27-member state bloc. “Without you, Ukraine will be wiped out,” he warned.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised Zelensky that the EU opinion on Ukraine’s membership bid would take only weeks instead of the usual years.

Several EU member countries, however, were quick to make it clear that the very process of accession would take a long time. Austrian EU Affairs Minister Karoline Edtstadler predicted that Ukraine would not join the bloc “in the next five to ten years.

In May, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Ukraine could become part of a “European political community” for the time being, noting that Kiev’s accession to the actual EU could take years, if not decades. Zelensky lambasted this idea, making it clear that Ukraine would not settle for any substitute to EU candidate status and subsequent full membership.