Vladimir Zelensky, Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine’s accession to the European Union will depend on its success in preparing for this step. This was announced by the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, following the results of the EU-Ukraine summit on February 3. Despite Kiev’s desire to speed up the process, Brussels still assesses the level of Ukraine’s preparation for membership in the association as “early”.

Experts believe that it will not be possible to achieve progress in this field in the coming years. At the same time, guests from Brussels again promised Kiev military support and sanctions against the Russian Federation.

false hopes

On February 3, key EU figures gathered in Kiev – the heads of the European Commission (EC), European diplomacy and the European Council Ursula von der Leyen, Josep Borrell and Charles Michel. Together with 15 European commissioners, they arrived at the EU-Ukraine summit on February 2. This is the 24th meeting in this format and the first since February 24 last year.

The central topic of discussion was the prospect of Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. Recall that on June 23, she received the status of a candidate member. On the eve of the summit, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal presented a plan for the country’s entry into the association in two years.

“We have a very ambitious plan to join the EU within the next two years. Therefore, we expect that this year, in 2023, we may already have a preliminary stage of negotiations,” the head of the Ukrainian government said.

However, as Politico noted on the eve of the summit, “no one in the EU considers this realistic. ” Other Western media also wrote that Ukraine would need “light years” to become part of the EU.

European Union and Ukraine - EU News
European Union and Ukraine – EU News

According to the FT, representatives of some European capitals have warned the EU leadership not to give false hopes to Kiev that it will be able to join the community in the coming years.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, following the results of the summit, repeated: the goal is to start negotiations this year. Ursula von der Leyen, in turn, carefully tried to dissuade Kiev from haste.”Ukraine’s accession to the EU will depend on its success in preparing for this step, there are no hard deadlines for accession and even for the start of negotiations,” the head of the EC noted.

Nevertheless, the guests from Brussels distinguished themselves with emotional speeches. “Ukraine is the EU, the EU is Ukraine,” said Charles Michel, promising to support Kyiv at every step along the path to unification.

The Ukrainian authorities have been actively preparing for the summit this week, arranging mass searches of deputies and businessmen. Particular attention was paid to representatives of the country’s Ministry of Defense.

Nevertheless, in Brussels, according to the EC report of January 2, the level of Kiev’s preparation for membership is still assessed as “early”. The study notes that the “advanced” level of readiness for the beginning of the accession process envisaged by experts for EU candidates by Ukraine has not been achieved in any of the studied areas.

The expert community believes that Kyiv will not be able to achieve much progress in the near future.

  • In the history of the EU, no country has been able to fulfill all the necessary conditions in such a short time to qualify for member status. Of course, the Ukrainian plan – to join the EU in two years – is fantastic, – Nikolai Topornin, Associate Professor of the Department of European Law at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Izvestiya.

He noted that, as Kyiv itself claims, almost 50% of the Ukrainian economy has been destroyed due to hostilities. “That is, energy potentials, plants, factories have been destroyed. And it won’t be easy to recover. Obviously, it will take more than one year,” the expert added.

According to him, not all members of the association support Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and it is unlikely that sceptics will be convinced in the near future.

  • The interests of those who offer Ukraine a “fast track” to the EU are at odds with the interests of Europe and its citizens. Members of the union had to go through the most difficult reforms. From this point of view, it would be unfair to offer Kiev some kind of special procedure,” Milan Ugrik, EP deputy from Slovakia said.

Corruption reigns in Ukraine, and now its ability to carry out reforms is objectively limited, he believes.

Other features

At the same time, the EU continues to build up cooperation with Ukraine on the basis of the existing association agreement (it entered into full force in 2017).

Ursula von der Leyen came to Kiev not only with 35 million LED bulbs for Ukrainians, but also with a proposal to strengthen energy cooperation. Including the head of the EC invited Kyiv to take part in the system of joint gas purchases. “We want to make the best use of the overall market power,” she said back on February 2 during a press conference with Volodymyr Zelensky.

Energy Minister of Ukraine Herman Galushchenko confirmed Kyiv’s interest not only in joint purchases of gas, but also in the provision of Ukrainian underground storage facilities (UGS) for the creation of strategic reserves by the EU countries.

Mykola Topornin admits that the EU may develop a special status for Ukraine.

  • This status, of course, will not allow Kiev to influence pan-European decisions, but Ukraine will be able to get special economic rights and economic conditions common with the EU. Based on the association agreement, it is also possible to develop new documents on in-depth cooperation, the expert admits.

EU officials, by the way, said that on February 2 they discussed improving the access of Ukrainian products to the European market.

On the same day, Reuters reported that the EU states had reached an agreement on the introduction of a price ceiling for oil products from Russia at $100 per barrel traded at a premium and $45 per barrel traded at a discount.

Anniversary Sanctions

One of the main outcomes of the summit in Kyiv was new EU promises to increase pressure on Russia. Ursula von der Leyen said earlier that the 10th package of sanctions against Moscow would be approved by February 24. On February 3, she noted that the new sanctions imply restrictions of €10 billion. According to her, the restrictions will affect the technologies that Russia used in missiles and drones.

Recall, earlier it was reported that the new package of the EU plans to include sanctions against nuclear cooperation with the Russian Federation. However, for now, Hungary opposes this measure. Belgium, in turn, is in no hurry to say goodbye to Russian diamonds.

  • Despite the disagreements, a consensus on the new package will be reached. Although in the end it will be much narrower than the initiatives that are being discussed now. I do not rule out that in order to reach a consensus for the same Belgium will be made concessions. For the EU, it is more important to preserve its political face and take at least some measures,” Ekaterina Arapova, director of the Center for Expertise on Sanctions Policy at the Institute of International Studies at MGIMO said.

The confiscation of Russian assets was also discussed in Kiev. The EU representatives assured the Ukrainian side that they would intensify their efforts to use the frozen funds for the restoration of Ukraine. However, Brussels did not report progress in the legal reforms needed to do so. By the way, while the legislation of the EU countries does not allow to confiscate the assets of other states.

Military assistance was not bypassed at the summit either. Josep Borrell said that the EU will provide Kiev with €25 million to clear mines from potentially dangerous areas. Charles Michel added: the association will support Ukraine in all possible ways, as long as necessary. The head of the European Council recalled that financial assistance to Ukraine in the amount of €18 billion has already been planned for 2023.

Now a discussion has begun in the EU about the supply of fighter jets to Kiev. While Germany and other Central European countries are still looking at this with concern, the Baltic States and Poland insist on the transfer of the F-16. Commenting on this information, the official representative of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov noted:

“Aggressive-minded countries are doing everything possible to strengthen further confrontation with Russia.”