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Accession of Ukraine to the European Union: April 2023 media monitoring

April was lacking media attention to the topic of Ukraine’s advancement on the way to EU membership. The drop in the number of mentions, which began back in March, continued in April: mentions of this topic in leading online media dropped by 27% and by 26% in social networks (the statistics presented in the article is collected using Youscan media analysis tool). Most oftenly, the media discussed international meetings of Ukraine`s representatives and tracked information about the next EU Criteria Assessment of Ukraine.

Media about Accession of Ukraine to the European Union

The large concentration of news, events and important statements related to European integration was concentrated at the end of the month (during April 25-28)

The visit of the Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to Italy on April 26-27 was the most covered event on the topic by Ukrainian journalists. Covering this event, they mostly focused on such aspects of the negotiations as the participation of Italy in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, the expansion of cooperation between the countries in the military industry (in particular, the joint production of air defense systems), negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU and Rome’s recognition of the Holodomor as genocide. In particular, the Ukrainian media often quoted the statement of Giorgia Meloni, the Prime Minister of Italy, on the necessity to speed up negotiations with the EU regarding Ukraine’s membership.

Another diplomatic visit of the Ukrainian officials received a slightly lower level of attention. Volodymyr Zelenskyi visited Poland on April 5. Covering this event, journalists most often mentioned discussion of security guarantees for Ukraine from NATO, military support from Poland and the participation in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. The problem of importing Ukrainian products during the President’s visit was discussed less often. Some media described the visit as a “very effective one”.

The issue of the new status of Ukraine in the process of rapprochement with the EU was another popular topic in April, in particular, the topic of the next EU Criteria Assessment of Ukraine. On April 3, Rikard Jozviak, the Europe editor of “Radio Liberty”, announced on his Twitter page that the European Commission will provide updated information on the status of accession to the EU for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in May. On April 27, Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine would receive an interim report “at the end of spring.” He also repeated his somewhat controversial statement that “Ukraine has fulfilled all seven recommendations of the European Commission,” and “the official report in the fall will open the door to the negotiation process.” However, on the same day, Matti Maasikas, the Ambassador of the European Union to Ukraine, announced that the preliminary assessment will be made public in June. Each of these statements were actively covered by the Ukrainian media.

On April 27, a Ukrainian correspondent asked Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament, whether it is possible to start negotiations on joining the EU already this year, if Ukraine fulfills all the recommendations of the European Commission. Metsola said she would support it, but emphasized the need to fulfill all obligations. Some Ukrainian media informed about this statement under the somewhat speculative title “The European Parliament approves the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union already this year.”

Also the media often wrote about the establishment of relations between the EU and Ukraine within the framework of the Hague Judgments Convention on April 24. This will involve mutual recognition and enforcement of court decisions in civil and commercial cases between Ukraine and the EU. The media often quoted the words from the press release of the European Commission, which states that “the European Union member states consider that there are no fundamental obstacles, such as related to the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, the fight against corruption or the respect of fundamental rights, which could prevent the EU from entering into treaty relations with Ukraine”.

In addition, during April, the media actively covered following events: the joint declaration of the presidents of Ukraine and Estonia as part of Kaia Kallas’ visit to Ukraine (April 24) and the signing by the Czech Republic and Slovakia of a declaration to support Kyiv on way to NATO membership (April 28).

Analytics and draft laws

In April, analysts most often discussed two topics – the “grain crisis” (the temporary ban on the export of Ukrainian agricultural products to several east EU countries), and the reform of the Constitutional Court on the implementation of the recommendations of the European Union.

Ukrainian journalists criticized the decisions of the Eastern European government officials, in particular they accused them of populism and violation of European law. They also noted that this decision plays in favor of Russia. The journalist of the “Texty” media characterized the suspension of the export of Ukrainian agricultural products as “Polish populism” and a political decision made on the eve of the parliamentary elections. Lawyer Andrii Tereshchuk accused the EU countries that implemented the ban of unwillingness to solve infrastructural problems. He also noted that the “populism of politicians” of some EU countries may become an obstacle to Ukraine’s integration prospects. Yurii Panchenko, the editor of the “European Truth” publication, noted that the solution to the conflict proposed by the European Commission contradicts the Association Agreement.

In April the experts of three influential anti-corruption organizations (Dejure, the Anti-Corruption Center and the Automaidan) issued an article in which they accused the government of unwillingness to comply with the requirements of the European Union and the Venice Commission regarding anti-corruption reform. Namely, to add a seventh expert, delegated by international partners, to the Advisory Group, which selects candidates for the Constitutional Court. In addition, the authors of the text criticized the representatives of the Venice Commission and the European Union for their willingness to make concessions to the Ukrainian authorities and to soften their demands, which, according to the authors, would lead to “the movement of Ukraine away from democracy.” In addition, the Dejure organization posted on its website an appeal to the members of the Verkhovna Rada not to vote for the bill that would legalize the government’s vision of the Advisory Group work.

The Ecodia organization analyzed a set of proposals for revising and updating EU legislation (the package “Fit for 55”). They concluded that the Ukrainian emission reduction plan looks “weak” compared to the European one, and Ukraine`s commitments are not ambitious enough.

Analysts of the “Europe Without Barriers” think tank reviewed the negotiations regarding the introduction of joint border control between Ukraine and Poland. Experts concluded that Ukraine’s officials lack the political will to implement the new procedure, as the obstacles voiced by the Ukrainian side look far-fetched.

Only one law, which was indicated as required for EU acquis approximation, was adopted in April – on the use and circulation of pyrotechnic products (No. 7438). According to the explanatory note to the law, it complies with Directive 2013/29/EU of the European Parliament. The media often wrote about the “banning of fireworks and firecrackers.” However, journalists didn`t criticize this law. Some of them even published reports under the title “It was long overdue.” Journalists also mentioned that “the ban does not apply to the use of pyrotechnics by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”