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The Ukraine-EU summit: has it become a breakthrough on the way to full membership?

Photo: Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Ursula von der Leyen
Source: Office of the President of Ukraine

On February 3, 2023, the 24th summit between Ukraine and the European Union took place. The previous summit was held in October 2021 in Kyiv. It was planned that the 2022 summit would be conducted in December, it was originally supposed to be in Brussels, but the parties agreed to move the event to the capital of Ukraine. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell, President of the European Council Charles Michel and 14 European Commissioners visited Kyiv.

The main topics for discussion were:

  1. Ukraine’s European path and the accession process;
  2. the EU’s response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine;
  3. Ukraine’s initiatives for just peace and accountability;
  4. cooperation on issues of reconstruction and relief and in the areas of energy and connectivity;
  5. global food security.


According to the results of the Summit, the EU announced the allocation of the first billion euros for the restoration of the destruction caused by Russia's war against Ukraine under the "Fast Recovery" plan. The leaders supported the development of the International Center for the Investigation of Crimes of Aggression in Ukraine (ICPA) and the preservation and storage of evidence for future trials in The Hague. The EU also supported the Ukrainian "Peace Formula", an initiative of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which should form the basis of a just end to the war. The European Union is ready to work on the implementation of all ten of its points and on holding a Peace summit.

The joint statement adopted at the summit is quite ambitious. In the document, the European Union confirmed that the future of Ukraine and its citizens lies in the European Union and expressed its readiness to support Ukraine as long as necessary. The EU recognized the significant efforts that Ukraine has demonstrated in recent months in achieving the goals underlying its candidate status, and welcomed Ukraine's reform efforts. Progress in reforming is not abstract, it is specifically analyzed in the document that the representatives of the European Union handed over to the Ukrainian authorities.

Before the Summit, Ukraine received the "Commission Analytical report on Ukraine’s alignment with the EU acquis." This report helps to assess how much the candidate country has approached the EU. In total, for 32 chapters, Ukraine got 69 points, that is, the average score is 2.16. Compared to other "Associated Trio" states, this is the best result. Georgia received 67 points, while Moldova - only 55. For four out of 32 chapters, Ukraine received a high score - four, that is, confirmation of "good compliance". This applies to the chapters "customs union", "energy", "foreign policy" and "security policy". In another five areas, Ukraine received a "three", which is generally a good rating for a novice candidate. At the same time, there are eight areas in which Ukraine was given the lowest score (that is, those where Ukraine almost did not adapt EU law), and 15 areas where the transformation was rated as a "two", that is, only partial implementation of European norms was demonstrated.

The successful implementation of reforms will further determine the country's prospects for joining the European Union. A decision on the opening of negotiations on Ukraine's accession may be made as early as this autumn. However, the question still remains whether the EU will make such a decision. The leaders of the EU countries still emphasize the need for internal transformations in Ukraine. First of all, regarding anti-corruption reforms and in the judicial sphere.

In January, a large-scale anti-corruption campaign was conducted in Ukraine against top officials involved in corruption. This strengthened the position of the country's leadership on the eve of the summit, because concrete results of the work of the system of anti-corruption bodies in Ukraine were demonstrated to Ukrainian partners. In addition, on January 12 this year 8 members of the Supreme Council of Justice were appointed, after which a new head of this body was elected. The Verkhovna Rada has also already registered the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code on Strengthening the Independence of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office.

Thus, the leadership of Ukraine demonstrates that the current government listens to European partners and is really trying to do everything possible to open accession negotiations. At the same time, it is worth noting that not all European countries are currently inclined to a positive decision for Ukraine after the upcoming evaluation of the fulfillment of EU requirements in the fall. There are still European partners for whom Ukraine's accession to the EU is a procedural issue that should be resolved after the country reaches the Copenhagen criteria. 

Ukraine continues to move closer to the EU and improve its legislative and economic standards, however, the issue of joining the European Union remains open and has no a determined date or deadline. The leadership of Ukraine, in particular, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, expects that the EU will demonstrate political will and eventually a decision on the opening of accession negotiations will be made already this year. The President of Ukraine officially expressed such expectations in February during his address to the citizens. This position is supported by Eastern European states such as Poland and the Baltic states. However, with traditional skeptics such as France, Austria, Denmark, the situation is still difficult and they are to be convinced. According to Denys Shmygal, after the opening of accession negotiations, Ukraine expects to become a full EU member in 2 years. 

As a result of the visit of representatives of the European Union to Kyiv and the Ukraine-EU summit, Ukraine has received diplomatic and political support amidst the war with Russia. The EU confirmed its participation in the implementation of the "Peace Formula" initiative. Also, representatives of the European Union expressed their intention to continue military support. Ukraine has not received assurances about the supply of long-range weapons and aircraft, but this issue remains on the agenda of bilateral cooperation with member countries. The issue of Ukraine's accession to the EU is not so clear-cut. Within the EU, there is still no unanimous position on the expediency of opening negotiations already this year. Ukraine, of course, will continue to convince its partners that in modern conditions such decisions require political will. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past and leave Ukraine outside Europe. At the same time, the willingness of European bureaucrats to abandon traditional approaches will largely depend on the effectiveness of internal transformations within Ukraine. At the beginning of the year, official Kyiv demonstrated its readiness and desire to fulfill EU requirements. The sustainability of this process may become one of the main factors in the positive decision of the European Union to start negotiations on Ukraine's accession this fall.

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2. Розраховуємо пройти шлях переговорів про вступ у ЄС менше ніж за 2 роки, — Денис Шмигаль, 13.01.2023,