European Commission recommends that Ukraine be granted EU candidate status
17 June, 2022

The European Commission has recommended that Ukraine be granted candidate status for membership in the European Union, announced President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Twitter.

Firstly, the Commission recommended that the European Council give Ukraine a European perspective, and secondly, the status of a candidate for EU membership.

"We recommend to give Ukraine the candidate status, on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of important reforms. Ukraine has clearly shown commitment to live up to European values and standards. And embarked, before the war, on its way towards the EU," von der Leyen said.

The official also noted that Ukraine has already implemented roughly over two-thirds of EU rules, norms and standards, but stressed that homework needs to be done on the rule of law, oligarchs, anti-corruption and fundamental rights. According to EC chief, thereafter progress depends entirely on Kyiv.

The European Commission has also considered applications for candidate status from Moldova and Georgia. Moldova was also recommended to be granted candidate status, but Georgia was refused.

What's next after the European Commission's opinions?

Whether the European Council should grant Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership should be decided by the European Council at a meeting of EU states' leaders. The final decision is to be announced at the summit on June 23-24. For Ukraine to gain this status, the unanimous consent of all 27 EU leaders is needed.

What steps does the European Commission propose?

The European Commission has also announced an action plan to be implemented to start Ukraine's EU accession talks.

Necessary steps:

  • adoption and implementation of legislation on the selection procedure for judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, including the pre-selection process based on an assessment of their integrity and professional skills, in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission;
  • completion of the integrity check of candidates for members of the High Council of Justice and selection of candidates for the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine;
  • further strengthening the fight against corruption, in particular among top officials. Completion of the selection and appointment of a new National Anti-Corruption Bureau director and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office chief;
  • ensuring compliance of anti-money laundering legislation with the standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF);
  • adoption of a comprehensive strategic plan for law enforcement reform;
  • implementation of the law on oligarchs;
  • bringing media legislation in line with European audiovisual legislation;
  • completion of legislative reform for national minorities.

Ursula von der Leyen said that she conveyed the necessary steps to be taken by the Ukrainian authorities during her recent visit to Kyiv. The European Commission understands that some of the reforms are difficult to implement during the war, but believes that some steps can be taken now.

What does the candidate status mean?

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal explains that obtaining the status will significantly accelerate the process of Ukraine's entry into the EU internal market, the formation of common energy and digital markets, further trade liberalization, convergence in customs and transport.

In addition, granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership is a political signal, especially for Russia, that the world supports the European path of development.

How soon can Ukraine become EU member after gaining candidate status?

According to the European Commission, after receiving the status of Ukraine will have to meet a number of requirements before the start of accession negotiations. It is difficult to predict how long this will last.

Negotiations on accession among current EU members have proceeded differently. For example, Sweden applied in 1991 and became a member in 1995. On the other hand, Turkey applied in 1987, but has not yet joined the bloc.