Ukraine's plan to join European Union gets boost

2023-11-10 11:07:42China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Ukraine's ambition of joining the European Union received an important boost on Wednesday when the bloc's executive body said detailed negotiations should begin next year.

The European Commission said in a report that the accession talks should finally start, nearly 18 months since the bloc accepted Ukraine as a candidate state. The report recommended that the process should also begin for Moldova, which borders Ukraine.

On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "Today is a historic day, because today the commission recommends that the Council open accession negotiations with Ukraine and with Moldova."

Von der Leyen was speaking on the same day that the commission published a report suggesting to EU member states that accession talks should finally start.

Ukraine has held ambitions to join the EU for more than a decade. In late 2013, then-president Viktor Yanukovych's decision to scrap a trade deal with the European Union and instead turn toward Russia sparked street protests and his eventual ouster. The aim of joining the bloc — along with NATO — has formally been part of Ukraine's constitution since 2019.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who applied for EU membership in February 2022, shortly before Russia launched the special military operation, welcomed Wednesday's announcement.

"This is a strong and historic step that paves the way for a stronger EU with Ukraine as its member," Zelensky said on social media, vowing to press on with the necessary reforms.

The 27 national EU leaders are next due to decide mid-December on whether to accept the commission's recommendation. Any such decision requires unanimity of the bloc's 27 members, with Hungary seen as the main potential obstacle.

A top aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Budapest would not support Ukraine's EU integration unless Kyiv changes its laws on minorities.

If accepted, EU officials expect formal accession talks with Kyiv to start next year. Such negotiations take years before candidates meet extensive legal and economic criteria to join.

Hailing a "successful day", Zelensky said his country had done a lot during the conflict — key criteria for joining the bloc — and pledged that the post-conflict reconstruction of his country would be free from graft.

Russia's newspaper Vedomosti said the European Commission's approval for starting Ukraine's EU accession talks was largely symbolic.

"Any recommendation to open accession talks with Ukraine would essentially be a symbolic gesture, but the actual process of negotiating membership can take an eternity," Vedomosti quoted Russia in Global Affairs Editor-in-Chief Fyodor Lukyanov as saying.

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