The EU is preparing to open membership talks with Ukraine, with a formal announcement expected as early as December, Politico reported on Oct. 3, citing three diplomats familiar with the matter.
Ukraine officially applied for EU membership in late February 2022 and was granted candidate status in June last year.
The European Commission is expected soon to issue its evaluation of Ukraine’s progress toward accession and potentially recommend the start of the membership talks.
According to Politico’s sources, the EU’s executive arm will publish its “progress report” in November and will make it “very hard for member states not to say let’s open negotiations” for Ukraine.
“The political push around that will just be too big for individual member states to resist. The working assumption is indeed that by December, the European Council will decide to open negotiations,” one of the diplomatic sources told the news outlet.
Another source said that the announcement will represent only a political agreement, with a legal decision expected to be made by early 2024.
As part of the accession process, Kyiv was presented with seven criteria it needs to fulfill in order to begin the membership talks.
Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said in September that Ukraine had already “fulfilled the EU recommendations on the necessary legislative work in the judicial and media spheres,” adding that the reforms in other areas are ongoing.
Two of the EU’s criteria include adopting a media law to tackle the influence of vested interests and implementing legislation reforms on the selection procedure for judges of the Constitutional Court.
Ukraine adopted a law on Constitutional Court reform on Aug. 17, but issues regarding the judiciary persist.
The White House sent a working draft listing priority reforms to the Ukrainian government with an emphasis on the judiciary and anti-corruption agencies.
According to a leak published by Politico earlier this week, Washington is particularly worried about the state of corruption in Ukraine, allegedly warning that Western support may depend on Kyiv’s anti-graft efforts.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commented that Ukraine has made great strides toward EU membership since June last year, but “hard work” still lies ahead.
When asked how far Ukraine came in fulfilling all the seven criteria, an EU official told Politico that progress has been encouraging, and only the area concerning national minorities seemed problematic in the short term.