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EU Commission approves start of Ukraine membership talks

The executive body has also recommended that Moldova be invited to begin accession discussions

The European Commission on Wednesday recommended launching membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova once the two countries have concluded reforms required by the bloc.

In a statement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described it as “a historic day because today the commission recommends that the [EU] council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova.” 

Kiev has been “deeply reforming” the country even amid the conflict with Moscow, von der Leyen claimed. She further stated that Ukraine had already carried out “well over 90% of the necessary steps” for membership set out by the bloc last year. 

“On this basis, we have recommended today that the council opens accession negotiations. We also recommend that the council adopts a negotiating framework once Ukraine has carried out the ongoing reforms,” von der Leyen added.

The EU chief made a similar recommendation for Moldova, arguing it had “undertaken significant reform efforts.” The progress made by the two countries will be accessed in March 2024, and should all of the EU-required reforms be concluded, “the council could then finalize the negotiating framework,” von der Leyen explained. 

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However, the EU official offered no concrete timeline for when the enlargement of the bloc might actually happen. Earlier this year, European Council President Charles Michel argued the EU should prepare to expand by 2030, although von der Leyen openly opposed that suggestion. Speaking to Moldovan media after the announcement on Wednesday, she reiterated that 2030 should not be viewed as a deadline of any sort for the potential accession of prospective members. 

“I am confident that Moldova will make rapid progress on its path to the EU. Its efforts are impressive. But since we say that EU membership is a process based primarily on merit, we should not focus on 2030. For some it may happen sooner or later,” she stated.

Two other aspiring members of the bloc, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia, received more cautious approval for the start of talks. Regarding the former, the commission “recommends the opening of EU accession negotiations… once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is achieved,” von der Leyen said. 

Concerning Georgia, the EU chief urged Tbilisi to follow EU policies more closely. While the bloc’s leadership “fully supports the genuine aspirations of the overwhelming majority of [Georgian] citizens to join,” such aspirations “need to be better mirrored by the authorities who should engage more with the opposition and civil society on matters of national interest,” she stated. The commission nonetheless recommended granting Georgia candidate status “on the understanding that the government takes important reform steps.”

 

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