Espreso. Global

Negotiations on Ukraine's EU accession to last at least 7 years - lawyer

25 June, 2024 Tuesday

How are the negotiations for Ukraine's accession to the European Union progressing, and could Polish farmers and Hungarians block Ukraine's entry?


Nataliya Haletska, lawyer, head of the Commission on European Integration, International, and Interregional Cooperation at the Lviv Regional Council, explained this to Espreso.

"Today is a significant day - the negotiation framework has been officially approved. This framework represents the EU member states' official position during negotiations," said Haletska. "The duration of negotiations for EU accession can be unpredictable. It's generally thought they could last at least one and a half election cycles in the EU, so the quickest timeline for us would be seven years."

Haletska also mentioned that if Ukraine joins the EU, it could gain around 45-50 seats in the European Parliament, along with roles in the European Commission and the European Court of Justice.

Negotiations for Ukraine's EU accession using the Balkan approach

According to Nataliya Haletska, EU member states have agreed on how negotiations will proceed.

"The last similar agreement was made when the EU wanted to accept Balkan countries like Albania and North Macedonia. Ukraine's approach is based on this Balkan model, and we'll see the final document after the Luxembourg conference," Haletska explained.

In the Balkan method, all 32 negotiation topics are grouped into clusters. Each cluster is tackled separately, and progress to the next one depends on closing negotiations in the current cluster.

"Each cluster requires member states to vote to start and finish negotiations. This process, though not legally binding, can complicate things as it becomes a matter of political negotiation, bargaining, and budget discussions within the EU," Haletska added. "The first cluster likely to start Ukraine's accession talks will cover fundamental issues like anti-corruption measures, justice, and security."

Can one country stop Ukraine from joining the EU?

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he does not support Ukraine's accession to the EU, but assures that he will not block it. However, theoretically, one country could prevent negotiations for admitting a new EU member.

"In general, a single country can halt the negotiation process. The EU is primarily an economic union. Attempts to create an EU constitution in the 2000s failed, so decisions rely on consensus, which has both pros and cons," explained Natalia Haletska. "Hungary may try to block negotiations, but EU institutions can exert influence. Countries like Hungary and Poland often receive more EU funding than they contribute. Therefore, they are not interested in destroying this institution."

Polish and Hungarian challenges in EU accession talks

The recent border blockage by Polish farmers has shown that Ukraine's path to joining the EU, which includes establishing a free market, will not be smooth. Hungary will likely focus on protecting the rights of its national minorities in Ukraine.

"Both of these issues will definitely be raised during the negotiations. At the same time, the Hungarian issue may come up even faster than the Polish one, because it concerns the rights of national minorities. But most likely, our neighbors will use these issues as a bargaining chip in negotiations within the European Union. The EU also has budgetary periods, funds, allocation of funds for certain programs, and negotiations for positions (members of the European Parliament have already been elected, but the new European Commission has not been formed)," says Natalia Haletska.

According to her, solving the Polish issue may be easier compared to the Hungarian one. 

  • On Tuesday, June 25, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the start of accession talks with Moldova and Ukraine. 

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