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“Seize a historic chance”: what to expect from the EU-Ukraine summit?

The European Union should consolidate its political will, and at the same time, Ukraine should implement all the recommendations of the European Commission. What solutions do experts offer regarding Ukraine’s movement toward EU membership?

The 24th EU-Ukraine summit will occur tomorrow, February 3, 2023. Ukraine will participate as a candidate country for membership in the European Union for the first time in history.

How to respond to the euroscepticism and what ambitious goals Ukraine should set for rapid progress in European integration? – those were the issues discussed by representatives of the European community, Ukrainian authorities, and civil society in the “Ukrainian House” on the eve of the summit. The discussion was initiated by Network for the Protection of National Interests “ANTS” in partnership with New Europe Center.

“European integration shows that it is necessary to stop considering Ukraine as a buffer zone, but as a full member of the European Union and NATO” emphasized Hanna Hopko, Chair of the Board of the Network for the Protection of National Interests “ANTS”, Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Foreign Affairs (2014-2019),

“It is important that the statement about the urgent need to mobilize all forces, and especially military aid for Ukraine’s victory, was voiced at the summit. The year 2023 should be the year of victory. A protracted war should not cross the 10-year mark. Therefore, it is crucial for us, in addition to all the areas we are talking about: economic cooperation, sanctions against Russia, confiscation of assets, the tribunal, to have an understanding of victory. And there should be no discussions about any negotiations. The EU must understand that the victory in the war against Russia and the military defeat of Russia is a joint victory. This war is a war against authoritarianism, and we have to prevail. There is no place for compromises and concessions on the way to victory. There must be a clear leadership position of EU to mobilize all forces through various formats, such as the G-7 and Ramstein, for victory!”

See you there in two years?

Recently, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal made a statement that Ukraine has an ambitious plan to become a part of the European community within the next two years. However, before that, it is necessary to get an assessment on the implementation of the seven recommendations of the European Commission, which our country received together with the candidate status for EU membership.

Alyona Hetmanchuk, Director of the New Europe Center, presented the results of the latest monitoring of Ukraine’s implementation of the EU recommendations – Candidate Check-3:

“We have 5.8 points out of 10. We can see that there is a setback in implementing only one recommendation –  the reform of the Constitutional Court. The score for implementing anti-oligarchic reform has not changed. There is progress in implementing other recommendations. Thus, Ukraine is on the right track, on a positive track. Of course, a lot still needs to be done and there are many undercurrents and obstacles, but we see that there is a consensus, both political and public, which is very important for Ukraine’s accession process to the EU to take place in general.”

One step closer to the European Community: the candidate status as a recognition that Ukraine is already a European state

According to Matti Maasikas, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, the EU has already recognized Ukraine as a European state.

We recognize that Ukraine heroically defends principles, values, and security of Europe, despite aggression and war. Ukraine remains committed to the idea of the European Union. Ukraine is de facto European state, which was recognized by the decision of the European Union on June 23, when Ukraine was granted the status of EU candidate country.”

All the speakers also firmly believe that Ukraine’s place is in the European Union, and granting a full membership is only a matter of time. However, the level of speakers’ optimism and ambition regarding Ukraine’s aspirations varied somewhat.

Not to waste an opportunity – one step away from the European dream

“I would like us not to be under illusions and to realize that there is no exclusive, alternative, any other way to membership in the European Union, compared to the homework that other countries did. And that this membership will not be given us for granted, simply taking into account the circumstances in which Ukraine is today.” – said Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Head of the Committee on Ukraine’s Integration into the EU of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

She mentioned words of one of her European colleagues, who said that no PR campaign will help Ukraine to join the EU and open membership negotiations unless all recommendations of the European Commission are 110% implemented. She also stressed that it is crucial now to take a responsible approach to their implementation.

“…we simply have no right to waste a unique, historic chance. We have no right not to use this opportunity, even I would say, the personal interest of the leadership of the European Commission and European Council in ensuring that Ukraine opens negotiations on obtaining membership as soon as possible.” — said Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze.

The negotiations on Ukrainian membership to the EU should start in 2023

European partners also share Ukraine’s optimism, however, they are more moderate in assessing the duration of these negotiations.

Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament and Head of the International Association “United for Ukraine” is convinced that the start of negotiations is already possible this year, but the negotiation process itself will last for 3–4 years.

“This was our experience (Lithuania’s experience, ed.) even after the rapid ratification of all legislation. We believe that the parliament will need this time to discuss all details and become a member of the European Union,” Andrius Kubilius noted.

In his opinion, there are two challenges on Ukraine’s path to the EU: the need to implement reforms in Ukraine and the consolidation of Western political will.

“Now is the time for the European community and the European Union to create something similar t integration Ramstein, so that the political will on the Western side is consolidated, and it demonstrates a clear strategy and understanding of why the integration of Ukraine into the EU and NATO is beneficial not only for Ukraine but also needed for the European continent,” Andrius Kubilius said during his speech.

In addition, Mr. Kubilius drew a parallel between Ukraine’s negotiations on joining the EU with the initial objections to supply Leopard tanks by European countries.

“We have all witnessed some difficulties for the European countries to move from complete denial about the supply of, for example, Leopards, to a positive decision regarding this. I wondered why this decision had not been taken in the first place. The same can happen with the decision about accepting Ukraine into the EU,” stated Andrius Kubilius.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi at the 24th EU-Ukraine summit on February 3, 2023.

This is the first EU-Ukraine summit since the start of the Russian aggression, and also since the European Council granted Ukraine the status of candidate country.

The leaders will discuss Ukraine’s European path and the accession process; the EU’s response to russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine; Ukrainian initiatives for just peace and accountability; cooperation on issues of reconstruction and relief and in the areas of energy and connectivity and global food security.

The leaders are expected to issue a joint statement at the end of the summit.