Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, is confident that his country has earned the EU status. He stated this in a speech in which he appealed to the European Union for the immediate accession of Ukraine through a special procedure. Although EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has positively expressed herself about an EU membership for Ukraine, it is "very unrealistic that Ukraine will join the European Union in the short term", says Fabian Amtenbrink, Professor of European Union Law at Erasmus School of Law, at Nu.nl.
Since 2014, there has been a lengthy discussion about Ukraine's admission to the EU. Ukraine is eager to join the EU; a membership that could provide the country with economic security and protection against Russian influences, but possibly also provide military support from Europe, which is of great importance, especially now, after the invasion of Russia.
“An extremely lengthy and difficult process”
Amtenbrink understands von der Leyen's gesture "which is aimed at conveying that the EU stands on the side of Ukraine" and compliments the government of Ukraine: "They are doing everything they can to address us Europeans". However, Amtenbrink also indicates that accession in the short term is very unrealistic: “A lot of steps have to be taken before joining the EU. That is a process that, in the best-case scenario, can easily take five to ten years.”
In the process, all 27 member states must first unanimously grant a country a candidate-member status, after which the country must meet a whole list of entry requirements and adapt laws to EU standards. After that, a positive opinion from the European Commission is still needed, as well as unanimous approval for the accession of all 27 member states and the European Parliament. Ultimately, all countries still have to ratify the accession treaty. “An extremely lengthy and difficult process,” according to Amtenbrink.
Desperate times can lead to desperate measures
Regular admission to the EU in the short term is therefore very unlikely. Amtenbrink argues, however, that the EU could provide Ukraine with candidate-member status in the short term: a strong political signal.
However, desperate times can lead to desperate measures: “If the member states really wanted to, they could choose to shorten the accession process extremely and accelerate Ukraine's membership of the EU,” according to Amtenbrink. However, this will only be possible if the member states and the EU institution decide to ditch the regular procedure.