14:09 08 Nov 2023

European Commission recommends opening membership talks with Ukraine

The European Commission (EC) officially recommended on Wednesday that EU member states initiate membership negotiations with Ukraine. 

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, stated during a briefing in Brussels that Kyiv still must implement additional reforms.

"We can start negotiations [with Ukraine and Moldova] immediately once the European Council makes a decision," she told journalists.

The EC president stressed that Ukraine fulfilled over 90% of the recommendations made by the commission.

"On this basis, we recommended today that the Council opens accession negotiations. We also recommend that the Council approves the negotiating framework when Ukraine fulfills ongoing reforms," she said.

The process, expected to begin by the end of March 2024, will not be accelerated, and Ukraine will need to ensure development in certain areas.

Von der Leyen also praised Ukraine for continuing reforms despite the full-scale war.

"The main progress has been achieved in constitutional reform, judicial reform, the selection process for the High Council of Justice, anti-corruption processes, combating money laundering, significant measures to limit the influence of oligarchs on public life, a new media law, progress on national minorities. The remaining reforms are being implemented, which is positive," she said.

According to the EC report, the commission recommends that the Council adopt a negotiating framework once Ukraine:

  • adopts the proposed government bill to increase the staffing levels of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine;
  • removes provisions that restrict the powers of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP) in checking assets that have already undergone the verification process and limitations on NACP powers in inspecting property acquired by declarants before entering public service from the anti-corruption law without jeopardizing the rules that apply to ensuring national security during wartime;
  • passes a law regulating lobbying according to European standards as part of the anti-oligarchic action plan;
  • adopts a law related to the remaining recommendations of the Venice Commission from June 2023 and October 2023 regarding the law on national minorities while considering the Venice Commission's recommendations related to laws on the state language, media, and education.

"This is another historic step for the citizens of Ukraine in their European integration aspirations. Today, we accepted the enlargement package for 2023. Despite the war, Ukraine has shown determination to achieve significant progress in creating a powerful reform momentum. We recommend the European Council to start accession negotiations with Ukraine," said the EC.

Moreover, Ukraine must continue its fight against corruption through further investigations and convictions related to corruption.

The EC also recommends opening accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina once the necessary level of compliance with membership criteria is achieved.

The commission suggests that the European Council grant Georgia the status of a candidate country under certain reform conditions.

The EC believes four out of seven criteria of Ukraine's candidacy for EU accession to be fully fulfilled. The other three criteria are accompanied by recommendations.

Among the partly fulfilled criteria are legislative reforms regarding national minorities.

Known details about Ukraine's EU membership

On June 17, 2022, the European Commission recommended granting Ukraine candidate status for EU membership and presented seven conditions for starting accession negotiations:

  • reforming the Constitutional Court,
  • continuing judicial reform,
  • anti-corruption measures, including appointing the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office,
  • combatting money laundering,
  • implementing the anti-oligarchic law,
  • aligning audiovisual legislation with European standards,
  • amending legislation related to national minorities.

Recently, President Zelensky stated that this decision could be the most significant in a decade, with Ukraine eagerly awaiting negotiations.

In turn, Hungary declared that until Hungarian language education demands are met, Budapest will block the start of accession negotiations with Ukraine.

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