This is the second Ukrainians have been combating — and dying — for. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is strolling up a crimson carpet in Brussels’ Europa constructing towards his first assembly of the European Council, the discussion board the place the European Union’s leaders hammer out the bloc’s most perplexing issues.
He has been right here earlier than, in fact, sporting his olive inexperienced sweatshirt in solidarity with the Ukrainian troopers combating within the trenches — his eyes exhausted from main his nation by way of an excruciating conflict. But as we speak, Zelenskyy is sporting a exactly tailor-made black swimsuit, a spotless white shirt and a black tie. He’s clean-shaved, clearly well-slept and has a twinkle in his eyes. The former Ukrainian actor has time to look within the mirror once more.
Zelenskyy is strolling the crimson carpet of the lantern-shaped atrium not as a war-worn, rock star-like visitor, however as the chief of a full-fledged member of the EU. “Slava Ukraini,” he says, stopping to deal with the gathered tv cameras. Then he provides with a wink: “Slava European Union.”
It’s too early to say when — or even when — Ukraine will be a part of the EU. Today, the European Commission will temporary EU affairs ministers in Stockholm on the state of play of Ukraine’s progress earlier than EU leaders determine in December on the subsequent steps within the accession negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova. The checklist of reforms Ukraine must ship is lengthy and nicely documented. What’s been much less examined is how the EU must change to accommodate a war-devastated nation of greater than 40 million individuals who have risked their lives to turn into part of the bloc.
To reply the query of what it is going to take for Ukraine to hitch the EU, POLITICO spoke to European and nationwide officers, present and former European diplomats, Ukrainian officers and political and safety analysts — together with among the prime gamers working towards the nation’s accession. What emerged was an image of EU and nationwide officers already grappling with that very query — and a rising consensus: If Ukraine is to hitch the EU, the EU will first have to alter.
“Taking the EU as it is right now … simply, the EU can’t really absorb Ukraine,” stated Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador, summing up the prevalent standpoint.
The stars of the EU flag flew over Ukrainian protesters on the streets in the course of the 2014 Maidan Revolution and accompanied Ukrainian troopers of their trenches. Russia’s full-blown invasion of the nation final 12 months pushed the ethical case for Ukraine’s membership to the top of the agenda in Brussels. Now the bloc’s leaders are beginning to wrestle with what they’ve dedicated themselves to.
“If a number of countries join — Ukraine, Moldova, but the Western Balkans discussion will follow — some things will change fundamentally,” stated Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
The accession of Ukraine can be a second not like another in EU historical past. The bloc has in fact welcomed new members, with the biggest growth in 2004 resulting in 10 new members. But this time, the EU can be admitting a rustic devastated by conflict with roughly the inhabitants of Spain and extra land space than another member.
The decision-making each throughout the Council and between the three key EU establishments — the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament — is already one of the difficult sausage-making machines on this planet. Adding a member like Ukraine wouldn’t make issues easier.
If Kyiv would be a part of tomorrow, it would in idea get proportional positions within the European establishments: its personal European commissioner and plenty of seats within the European Parliament between Warsaw’s 52 seats and Madrid’s 59. In the Council of the EU, Ukraine would command round 9 % of the votes, like Poland.
There can be institutional hiccups. The European Parliament would exceed its restrict of 751 European lawmakers, so the restrict must be lifted or different EU nations must hand over a few of their seats. (Good luck with that.)
More importantly, enlargement dangers making the gradual European decision-making course of much more cumbersome. “Nowadays it’s already difficult,” stated a senior nationwide official. “Imagine looking for those compromises with 30 or even 35 countries? Not only will there be more countries around the table, they will also be more diverse and with different national interests.”
The accession of Ukraine and different nations supplies an alternative for institutional change, stated Steven Van Hecke, a professor in European politics on the Catholic University of Leuven. “Politically, I don’t see Ukraine joining without a new institutional exercise.”
In January, Belgium will tackle the presidency of the Council of the EU, placing it accountable for coordinating the bloc’s policymaking choices in the course of the essential interval earlier than the European Parliament election in June 2024. De Croo has already begun mobilizing assist behind efforts to organize the EU for Ukraine’s membership.
“These discussions will take time,” he stated. “We need to start preparing for them so that we are ready when candidate countries are ready as well.”
The Belgian prime minister desires to study from the admittance of Central and Eastern European nations. The sudden inclusion of latest members destabilized the steadiness of energy within the bloc, even as the inflow of much less prosperous staff ignited common opposition in opposition to the EU — most notably within the U.Okay. Enlargement additionally laid the bottom for institutional battle, such as Poland and Hungary’s battle with Brussels over the rule of legislation.
“In a way, we are still struggling a little bit with the consequences of that period,” stated De Croo. “So we have to make sure that this time we have done our homework ourselves.”
CAP and spend
If there was a single second of realization in regards to the upcoming problem, it arguably happened on May 23 on a ship navigating Portugal’s Douro River.
It was there that Portugal’s Secretary of State for EU Affairs Tiago Antunes hosted his counterparts from Spain, France, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark for the first assembly of the so-called Atlantic group, an casual assortment of EU member nations with Atlantic coastlines.
Aboard the steel-built three-masted crusing vessel — the NRP Sagres, the satisfaction of the Portuguese navy — speak rapidly turned to Ukraine’s potential membership. “There was a common understanding that we needed to address this topic,” stated the senior nationwide official talked about above, who was current on the assembly. “That wasn’t the case in the months, or even the weeks, before this moment.”
During the assembly, a number of high officers raised issues over what the accession of the previous breadbasket of the Soviet Union would imply for the EU’s agricultural coverage. Already, Ukrainian grain has induced rifts within the bloc, as nations bickered over whether or not to increase the tariff-free standing for imports, initially granted in a gesture of solidarity.
“What do they expect will happen when Ukraine joins the EU’s single market?” stated one EU diplomat. “Not only will the Eastern countries no longer be able to block the grain, Ukraine will also be the biggest beneficiary of the EU’s agricultural subsidies. How will the Polish government explain that to their farmers?”
If Ukraine have been to turn into a member of the EU tomorrow, it might get by far the largest chunk of cash from the €386 billion Common Agricultural Policy, which rewards nations in keeping with their agricultural space. Its farmlands cowl an space bigger than all of Italy. And the average farm stretches throughout 1,000 hectares, in comparison with simply 16 hectares within the EU.
The common Ukrainian farm stretches throughout 1,000 hectares | Genya Savilov/AFP by way of Getty Images
“It would mean more or less the end of the Common Agricultural Policy,” stated Araud, the previous French ambassador. He predicted essential modifications and, as a consequence, unavoidable political strife. “When we talk about ‘reform’ of the Common Agricultural Policy, it usually means giving less money to farmers,” stated Araud. Even the slightest tweak to the CAP is ready to ship a wave of farmer protests all through Europe — and a whole lot of tractors to Brussels’ Rue de la Loi.
“It is impossible to assess the impact on the CAP prior to the political outcome of the accession negotiations,” a spokesperson for the European Commission stated.
Cost of reconstruction
Then there’s the broader economic system. The quantities wanted for Ukraine reconstruction are dizzying. The Kyiv School of Economics in March said the harm to Ukraine’s infrastructure alone quantities to $143.8 billion. The war-torn nation would have one of many poorest GDPs within the bloc as soon as it joins.
In addition to any ad-hoc efforts to assist Ukraine rebuild, the nation’s membership would put huge pressure on the bloc’s cohesion coverage — funding that flows from richer areas to poorer areas in an effort to place Europe’s nations and areas on a extra equal footing.
Ukraine’s admittance would flip some areas from internet beneficiaries to internet donors. “The question is who is going to pay for that, what will be the contribution?” one senior EU official said. “All those questions take years, sometimes decades, to address.”
A flooded space in Kherson after the Nova Kakhovka dam was bombed | Roman Pilipey/Getty Images
Because of this, it’s unlikely Kyiv can be allowed to hitch with out some reform of the EU’s cohesion funding, which makes up a few third of the bloc’s finances. That debate is already being prepared now by a bunch of high-level specialists and is ready to flare up once more forward of the subsequent finances cycle, operating from 2027 to 2032.
Proposals embody tightening the hyperlinks between EU funds and structural and financial reforms, as was performed with the pandemic restoration cash. Critics of EU cohesion coverage often complain that among the money goes to richer nations. If cash is tight, why hold funding nations that may pay for initiatives themselves?
The Commission spokesperson stated that similar to with earlier accessions, the EU will at a sure second “determine the financial framework of a future accession, including which transitional measures such as phasing-in of EU funds should be put in place.”
Then there are the geopolitical issues, as Ukraine’s admission would inevitably tip the EU’s middle of steadiness to the east. Since Russia’s assault on Kyiv, Eastern voices — particularly in Poland and the Baltics — have been driving coverage like by no means earlier than. Giving Kyiv a seat on the desk would supply that flank of the bloc much more political and institutional weight.
“When Ukraine hypothetically at some point comes into the EU, the Easternization of the EU would continue, no doubt,” stated Kai-Olaf Lang of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Some nations are already pushing again. The Atlantic group was shaped partly to take a look at the discussions “from a Western perspective” the senior official talked about above stated. “We need to rebalance a bit.”
Germany has already made a reform of the Council’s voting system — particularly extra choices made by certified majority as an alternative of unanimity — a precondition of Ukraine’s membership. Demands for different institutional reforms are positive to observe.
“The EU has always managed to move ahead in challenging moments. Now, once again, it is time to act,” the EU’s international affairs ministers from Germany, Benelux, Romania, Slovenia and Spain said lately.
Kyiv is acutely conscious that nations that danger seeing their funding or energy diminish won’t see its potential membership in purely rosy phrases.
The ties between Ukraine and Poland specifically date again centuries stated Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna. “Ukraine has a huge, extremely strong bond with Poland historically,” she added. “Ukrainians will never forget it was Poland who opened its border, together with other neighboring countries, as of the first minute of the Russian aggression and helped our people to survive.”
At the identical time, Stefanishyna confused it was essential to clarify Poland isn’t Ukraine’s large brother. Ukraine has “huge friends and partners” throughout the EU, she stated, pointing particularly to France and Germany.
Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s deputy minister of economic system, stated Ukraine was already drawing classes from the tensions its grain exports had induced, particularly in neighboring nations like Poland. “This is like a stress test for all of us — for us, the Commission, for Poland — on how we will frame the further negotiations,” Kachka informed reporters earlier this month in Brussels.
Looming over all the opposite challenges might be safety. The sizzling conflict between Kyiv and Moscow must come to an finish earlier than Ukraine can be allowed to hitch. But it’s not unimaginable that the 2 sides will proceed to make claims to the identical territory — and even that Russian troops will nonetheless occupy part of the nation. (Cyprus, with the unresolved dispute over the north of the island, supplies a precedent.)
Whatever the state of the battle, Ukraine’s membership would virtually actually change the EU’s safety posture, with Kyiv becoming a member of Warsaw in insisting on robust ties with the United States and NATO.
The identified unknowns are countless, stated Maria Popova, a professor at Canada’s McGill University. Will the U.S. proceed to assist Ukraine? Will there be a complete victory or a frozen battle? What are the circumstances of a cease-fire? How will Russia react to a possible lack of the conflict in Ukraine? Will Ukraine, aside from becoming a member of the EU, additionally be a part of NATO? “To avoid further conflict, lines will have to be clearly drawn,” stated Popova.
Brussels, someday sooner or later
As night time falls over Brussels’ Parc du Cinquantenaire within the EU Quarter, Zelenskyy picks up the diary he has began for the reason that conflict ended. Being no stranger to self-importance, he hasn’t missed the comparisons some have made between him and Winston Churchill. Like the wartime British chief, Zelenskyy desires to inform his model of occasions — and his position in them.
The means main as much as this day has been steep, he writes, as there have been at all times institutional and political causes to maintain him within the ready room longer. But the actor who as soon as performed a president on TV by no means misplaced religion. His prose ideas into the purple, as he describes historic moments main as much as this, stretching as far again as the marriage of Anna Yaroslavna, a princess from Kyiv to the French King Henri I within the Reims cathedral in 1051.
Ukraine’s admission would inevitably tip the EU’s middle of steadiness to the east| Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP by way of Getty Images
The Ukrainian chief doesn’t draw back from quoting Churchill himself. In 1946, the previous U.Okay. prime minister argued for the creation of a European household to make sure peace and prosperity within the area. Some 80-odd years later, within the aftermath of the largest European battle since World War II, the Continent is as soon as once more rising stronger out of the devastation of the conflict, Zelenskyy argues.
The Ukrainian president closes his diary, appears out on the Cinquantenaire arch, illuminated in blue and yellow for the event, and picks up his telephone.
It’s time to temporary Brussels Playbook.
Lili Bayer, Douglas Busvine, Jakob Hanke Vela and Suzanne Lynch contributed reporting.