KYIV — In a shock go to to Ukraine over the weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the EU will proceed supporting Kyiv amid fears that the Israel-Hamas battle is shifting consideration away from the conflict in Ukraine.
Von der Leyen’s go to to the Ukrainian capital got here forward of a key announcement on November 8, when Brussels is about to publish its report card on the progress of Ukraine and different aspiring EU candidates. Von der Leyen strongly hinted that Brussels will suggest that EU international locations open accession negotiations with Ukraine.
“I am confident that you can reach your ambitious goal: That is, for the historic decision to open the process of accession negotiations to be taken already this year,” von der Leyen said in a speech to Ukraine’s parliament on Saturday. Earlier within the day, she applauded Kyiv’s “excellent progress.”
In order to start out accession talks, Ukraine is legally required to satisfy seven situations laid out by the Commission, together with judicial reforms and curbing corruption. Based on the Commission’s evaluation, EU leaders will then talk about at their assembly in mid-December whether or not to launch formal membership talks with Ukraine.
Mykhailo Zhernakov, head of the board of the Dejure Foundation and a frequent critic of the Ukrainian authorities, informed POLITICO he sees vital progress in judicial reform, although a variety of work continues to be forward. “We need to recognize Ukraine’s progress. If it is not done now, it will not give any reasons for our politicians to continue painful reforms,” Zhernakov stated.
Enlargement selections require the backing of all 27 EU international locations. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán final month called for a brand new EU technique towards Ukraine, arguing the present technique has failed. Slovakia’s newly elected Prime Minister Robert Fico has also been critical towards navy assist for Ukraine. Other EU international locations politically assist enlargement, but stress that this has to go hand-in-hand with intra-European reform.
Therefore, the December EU leaders summit might be essential, stated Lukas Macek from the French assume tank Institut Jacques Delors.
“The Central European countries are very enthusiastic supporters, but I wonder whether they won’t gradually change their minds, realizing that the new arrivals will deprive these countries of certain advantages, notably European funds,” Macek stated, referring to the Polish tension toward Ukraine on grain.
Both Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna, who’s in command of European integration, had been optimistic on the long run accession in feedback on Saturday.
In a joint press convention with von der Leyen, Zelenskyy stated that “the recommendations necessary to start negotiations on membership, we have implemented these recommendations. But Ukraine does not stop in the transformation of our institutions, reforms will continue.”
Asked by POLITICO whether or not she fears resistance from any of the EU’s 27 member states, Stefanishyna stated: “I really think that even Hungary, they will use the momentum for certain manipulation and speculation, but by and large I think there will be consensus.”
The go to of von der Leyen additionally sends a key message to Kyiv that regardless of the battle within the Middle East, the EU continues to be centered on supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
The battle between Israel and Hamas risked shunting Ukraine out of the political limelight, with a whirl of European and American leaders spinning via the Middle East. The U.S. particularly is increasingly distracted by the conflict within the Middle East and has a divided stance on supplying extra help to Ukraine and a looming election in 2024.
In the joint press convention in Kyiv, Zelenskyy stated that whereas it’s clear “that the war in the Middle East takes over the focus of international attention,” he was assured about continued worldwide assist for Ukraine.
The renewed EU dedication additionally comes because the conflict in Ukraine has slowed down within the trenches, in keeping with Ukraine’s Army Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny in an interview with the Economist. Zelenskyy took challenge with the navy basic’s evaluation.
“Everyone is getting tired and there are different opinions,” Zelensky informed reporters on Saturday. “But this is not a stalemate.”
Increasingly, although, the West may need to start out making ready for a situation during which the fight in Ukraine drags on and dangers ending up a frozen battle, like North Korea.
“Security is a key part of the accession process,” stated Kai-Olaf Lang of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Solidarity and geopolitical issues will remain key, he stated. It’s one factor to barter and reform, Lang stated, it’s one other to supply safety for Kyiv as soon as it will grow to be a full-fledged member of the EU.
Paula Andres Richart contributed reporting.