Ukraine has filled in the questionnaire that Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission President, handed over to decide whether the nation can become an EU member. Therefore, the ball is once again in the court of the EU and its members. However, Fabian Amtenbrink, Professor of European Union Law at Erasmus School of Law, deems a fast EU membership for Ukraine to be unrealistic. He explains the current situation to Nieuwsuur and NU.nl.
Ursula von der Leyen stated that she wishes to give a recommendation within a few weeks instead of a few years to the EU members about a candidate membership of Ukraine. Since the mandatory questionnaire has now been completed, a recommendation from the Commission can be expected in June. According to Ambtenbrink, the past has taught us that the accession procedure is “an extremely lengthy and difficult process”.
The process of (candidate) EU membership
The first step of the process entails the recommendation of the Commission concerning the request of a nation wanting to become a member of the EU. This usually takes 1 or 2 years. Even though the European Union Treaties do not mention an accelerated procedure, it is possible to speed up certain parts of the process. “The EU treaty does not prescribe a certain time frame. The Commission is, therefore, free to give a recommendation to the European Council faster than usual”, explains Amtenbrink.
Nevertheless, the next step of becoming a full-fledged EU member is not an easy one. A candidate member must comply with multiple legal and economic criteria. These criteria concern, for example, the functionating democracy, the rule of law, the human rights protection, and the presence of a functioning market economy. Moreover, nations frequently must undergo far-reaching and lengthy reform processes to adjust their domestic laws and regulations to match EU legislation. Subsequently, all the 27 current members of the EU have to decide unanimously about their membership. Additionally, the European Parliament has to give its consent. Finally, all the EU members and the candidate-member have to ratify the accession treaty.
But first, survival
Even though becoming a (candidate) EU member can be accelerated in some stages, the Professor warns to keep the reality in Ukraine in mind; “We must not forget that Ukraine is in the middle of a horrible war right now. That means that you cannot demand certain things straight away. Ukraine is now busy striving to survive.”