EU summit: candidates and those waiting |

Status: 06/23/2022 04:39 a.m

At the EU summit, Ukraine is likely to receive the status of a candidate country. But that doesn’t mean a quick admission – the states of the Western Balkans know this only too well, and their representatives are also coming to Brussels.

By Holger Beckmann, ARD Studio Brussels

For the President of the EU Commission, the matter was very clear just a few days after the first Russian attack on Ukraine: The country belongs to Europe, to the European family, they want to be there: “We want them to join us in the European Living a dream” – as Ursula von der Leyen put it in her own way: pathetic. But apparently big words and big gestures count in a war, and now, around four months later, nobody in Brussels doubts that the EU heads of state and government at their summit, which begins today, will give the go-ahead for Ukraine to be granted candidate status for gaining membership of the European Union.

The country had repeatedly pushed for this in recent weeks, put pressure on it, appealed – this step is needed when moral support is needed in addition to arms deliveries and financial aid in the fight against the Russian troops, but also to have a perspective after the end of the war it from Kyiv.

resistance and fears

Of course, there was some resistance in the group of 27 EU countries – above all the Netherlands and Denmark expressed concerns with regard to the state structures or the state of democracy there. They criticized corruption and nepotism or the rule of law; Headwinds also came from southern Europe. There they fear that they will receive much less money from Brussels in the future because the funds could flow to Ukraine instead.

But ultimately, in view of the war, all of that counts for little, it is now said. Everyone must be aware that there is a “special responsibility for every member state of the European Union” these days, according to Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, “namely that none of us would want us to look back and see ourselves in a few years ask: How could we not use this strategic position?” Apparently everyone has now endorsed this attitude, also because Europe wants to show unity towards Russia, says Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

Enormous financial needs foreseeable

In fact, however, it does not cost anyone in the EU anything to give Ukraine candidate status for membership now. It is emphasized in Brussels that financial commitments are not linked to this. Even if it’s an open secret that after the end of the war massive financial aid for the Ukrainian reconstruction has to be made available anyway.

There is already a debate about where they should come from, but rather behind closed doors and probably not at this EU summit today and tomorrow. The symbolism is too big for that.

Also because not only the Ukraine should become a candidate for accession, but also the small neighboring Republic of Moldova, which also sees itself under massive threat from Russia.

The wait can be long

A look at the countries of the western Balkans shows that candidate status is one thing, but membership in the EU is another: Serbia, Albania and Montenegro have been waiting to join the EU for more than ten years.

Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg finds this difficult. He believes that the EU cannot “afford strategic tunnel vision and be blind in one eye”, because: “It has a responsibility not only towards our friends in Ukraine or Moldova, but also in Bosnia, in Serbia and in the six states of the Western Balkans”.

The admission criteria are strict

They all want to join the EU. And they will all end up having to meet strict admission criteria, which means they must be able to adopt all EU law and policy for their own country. And want that too.

There are no special rules for anyone – says the commission. The heads of state and government will also discuss this today and tomorrow in Brussels.

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