Espreso. Global

Three key milestones in Ukraine's path to European integration

2 November, 2023 Thursday

Over the next seven days, Ukraine's European integration agenda will be influenced by three important events

The first event will take place on November 2 in Berlin, where, at the invitation of the German side, the foreign ministers of the EU and EU candidate countries will meet to discuss at a high level ways to further reform EU institutions and policies in the context of accelerating the enlargement process.

The matter of EU reform and how it affects Ukraine's path to membership is of great significance, yet it is intricately complex. There's a potential risk of getting entangled in inter-institutional and interstate rivalries regarding the allocation of power, resources, and influence within the future EU. Concurrently, the integration capacity, previously referred to as absorption capacity, stands as the fourth criterion within the enlargement policy. This criterion, alongside the other three - political, economic, and legal - traces its origins back to the decisions made at the 1993 Copenhagen Summit.

Hence, it is evidently in Kyiv's best interest to proactively participate in the process to enhance the Union's integration capacity right from the outset, presenting well-defined, constructive ideas and initiatives that would benefit Ukraine as a prospective EU member. In this context, the active involvement of Foreign Minister Kuleba in the Berlin meeting holds significance and appropriateness.

The second event is expected to take place on November 8, when the College of the European Commission is to approve the official European Commission's enlargement package, which will include, among other things, an annual report on Ukraine assessing the country's progress in meeting the membership criteria, including the seven conditions for the start of pre-accession negotiations. According to our contacts and sources in Brussels, there is every reason to expect a generally constructive content of the "Ukrainian part" of the package and positive conclusions and recommendations on the start of accession negotiations.

The intrigue lies is whether these recommendations will be unconditional or will containsome additional clarifications and the need to "fine-tune" certain problematic elements, which the Ukrainian side will have to fulfill either before the December meeting of the European Council or before the Intergovernmental Conference, which is to give an official formal start to pre-accession negotiations early next year.

The third event is the visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Kyiv, which was announced in Brussels circles. Although the specific dates of the visit have not been disclosed for security reasons, there is every reason to believe that she will visit Ukraine before the aforementioned progress report on Ukraine is approved.

The visit itself is already a good symbolic message that the EC's recommendation to start negotiations will be positive for our country. Drawing from our own experience with the intricacies of Brussels' internal workings and the preparation for such visits, it's reasonable to anticipate that the primary focus of Ursula von der Leyen's meeting with the President of Ukraine will center on presenting the report and discussing and aligning proposed clarifications and "refinements" for the European Council or the Intergovernmental Conference with the Ukrainian leadership. Given the tendency of the Ukrainian leadership to have strongly emotional public reactions to any criticism or comments from its partners, the President of the European Commission will likely try to clarify and reassure her Ukrainian counterpart in advance. According to available information, such individual remarks may relate to both national minority issues and anti-corruption policy.

In addition to the presentation of the report, the head of the European Commission will likely use the opportunity to present the content of the European Commission's proposals for the 12th package of sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine, the European Commission's vision of the possibilities of using frozen Russian assets in the EU to support and restore Ukraine, as well as to confirm the political support of the EU institutions for the Ukrainian Peace Formula and encourage the authorities to continue democratic reforms.

The expected visit would be a good opportunity for the Ukrainian authorities to present an "adult" vision of further reforms in our country and effective steps towards Ukraine's integration into the EU. This would be our investment in the future of pro-European leaders, who, like the United States, are immersed in the election cycle.

In general, it is clear that the visit is doomed to success in advance and is oversaturated with positive signals from Ursula von der Leyen, who has invested a lot of her own political, time, and emotional resources in Ukraine and wants a success story. For her, Ukraine's success will be the key to her own success as President of the European Commission and as a potential candidate for the next head of the EC the European Council, or NATO Secretary General. Therefore, Ursula von der Leyen will not allow Ukraine to make any mistakes.

We will closely monitor the course of this important European integration week for our country and our future as an independent, democratic, European country.


About the author: Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, Ukrainian diplomat. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine.

The editors do not always share the views expressed by the blog authors.

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