Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has moved a step closer to his long-held dream of joining the European Union. On Friday, Ukraine was granted candidate status – the very first official step towards becoming an EU member state. But the road ahead is perilous with multiple steps to overcome and a series of rules to abide by before joining the EU club. And given the country’s crumbling economy under Vladimir Putin’s invasion, an EU expert says, European countries could shatter President Zelensky’s hope to ever join the bloc.
Emmanuel Dupuy, President of the Institute of Prospective and Security in Europe (IPSE), told Express.co.uk: “Entering the European Union is not about a political will. It’s about administrative, and judicial capability and the acceptance of a certain number of rules, which are yet not fulfilled by Ukraine.
“Ukraine is and will be – when it comes inside the European Union now or in 10 years’ time – the weakest of the European economies. And that is of course a huge burden both for Ukraine and European Union countries, which may very well not accept that.”
Ukraine’s economy could shrink by an estimated 45.1 percent this year, according to the World Bank. “The Russian invasion is delivering a massive blow to Ukraine’s economy and it has inflicted enormous damage to infrastructure,” warned World Bank Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region, who stressed the real impact of the war will vary according to the duration and intensity of the war. And the war shows no signs of letting up.
Though some EU leaders have pledged to help rebuild Ukraine, the bill could reach up to $600billion, President Zelensky said during the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London.
“There is the political will of the leaders,” said Mr Dupuy, noting even long-time Putin’s ally, Viktor Orban expressed support for Ukraine’s candidate bid.
“He discussed with Volodymyr Zelensky giving the impression that he will not put his veto in any case for the possible integration of a fast-track Ukraine’s candidacy.”
Now, President Zelensky faces the arduous task of incorporating tens of thousands of EU rules into Ukraine’s legislation. The Atlantic Council found a total of 80,000 pages of rules governing judicial systems and trade.
“There are 300 pages of norms of laws and of a certain number of subjects that are very difficult to tackle like the rule of law, fight against corruption, equality between men and woman as well as the fight against forced labour,” explained Mr Dupuy.
All those rules are part of the Community acquis, the body of the European Union law, which includes 31 chapters ranging from the free movement of goods to competition policy.
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The task ahead is time-consuming. Other applicant countries like Serbia, Albania and Montenegro formally applied for EU membership about ten years ago.
“And it’s not ready for the Community acquis,” said Mr Dupuy, citing the fight against corruption among many of the reforms Ukraine must undertake to open accession talks.
A viral clip of then-actor Mr Zelensky discussing Ukraine’s membership with a fictional former German Chancellor Angela Merkel could be a cautionary tale. In the clip from the satire show ‘Servant of the People’, the former actor leaps with joy upon hearing Ms Merkel congratulating him on Ukraine’s accession to the EU. But the scenes of ecstasy are cut short as Ms Merkel realises she called the wrong country.
While Ukraine is at war with Russia, the country cannot join the European Union.
“Another question is whether Ukraine can fulfil its commitment towards the EU candidacy whilst fighting a war – or defending its territory,” Mr Dupuy said.
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