Germany and the Netherlands want investigations before granting candidate status to Ukraine, Bloomberg reported
Germany, the Netherlands and other Western European countries want the European Commission to investigate Ukraine’s readiness for EU membership before fast-tracking its bid for the bloc, Bloomberg reported. Monday, citing unnamed diplomats. Ukraine’s Eastern European neighbors have pushed for early membership.
These countries, of which only Germany and the Netherlands are named, “want to focus on providing practical support to Ukraine and ending the war rather than embarking on a process that could take at least a decade,” Bloomberg reported.
Ukraine applied for EU membership last week, with President Volodymyr Zelensky asking “immediate accession via a new special procedure”. His request was backed by the leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, who in an open letter demand “the EU institutions to take steps to immediately grant Ukraine the status of an EU candidate country and open the process of negotiations.”
However, such “special procedure” does not exist, and even obtaining candidate country status usually requires an investigation by the European Commission and the unanimous consent of all 27 EU member states. Once applied for, membership can take years or even decades to be granted. Turkey, for example, has been a candidate country since 1999.
Although European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Ukraine a “one of us,” the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Monday that membership could take “A lot of years.” When assessing a country’s application for membership, the European Commission assesses everything from its economic performance to its legal system, environmental regulations and agricultural practices.
The EU also takes a dim view of countries with high levels of corruption. With Ukraine often seen as the most corrupt country in Europe and one of the most corrupt in the world, Zelensky’s government would need to implement significant reforms to be considered an EU candidate under normal circumstances. .
“Joining the EU is not something that can be done in a few months…it involves an intensive and far-reaching transformation process”, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at a press conference in Berlin on Monday.
Another factor perhaps explaining the reluctance of Germany and the Netherlands to accelerate accession is the fact that Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe according to several parameters. At $3,727 per capita, its GDP is less than half that of the EU’s poorest country, Bulgaria.
Germany and the Netherlands both contribute more than they receive from the EU and are the largest and sixth largest contributor to the bloc’s annual budget. Admitting Ukraine would put more pressure on the economies of both nations.
Moreover, if Ukraine joined the EU while it was still at war, the EU would become a party to the conflict with Russia, as provided for in the “mutual defense clause” of the Lisbon Treaty.
Despite the apparent disunity within the bloc over Ukraine’s membership, European Council President Charles Michel announced on Monday that “We will discuss Ukraine’s application for membership in [the] the coming days.”