Ukraine and Moldova Set to Launch EU Membership Talks

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Ukraine is set to officially launch membership talks with the European Union on Tuesday in what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described as a dream come true for his country’s citizens more than two years into a war with Russia.

Deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration Olga Stefanishyna will lead Ukraine’s delegation at an intergovernmental conference in Luxembourg marking the official opening of talks to align the countries laws and standards with those of the 27-nation bloc.

A few hours later, Moldova, which applied to join the EU after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and was granted candidate status four months later, will take part in a separate intergovernmental conference to officially launch its own accession process.

Ukraine, too, sought candidate status in the days after Russia invaded. By June 2022, EU leaders had quickly made it official. But things have moved more slowly since then and membership, if it comes, might be years away. Turkey’s accession talks have lasted almost two decades without result.

Still, starting the talks process is sending another strong signal of solidarity with Ukraine beyond the billions in financial support the EU has provided.
It’s also a show of support for Moldova, which has faced its own challenges with Russia.

“Generations of our people are realizing their European dream. Ukraine is returning to Europe,” Zelenskyy said in an online post after EU member states agreed on Friday to open the talks. Tuesday’s intergovernmental conference marks the launch of talks but the negotiations themselves are unlikely to begin for a few months.

Candidate countries must bring their laws and standards into line with those of the EU in 35 policy areas, known as chapters, ranging from the free movement of goods through fisheries, taxation, energy and the environment to judicial rights and security.

Unanimous agreement must be given by all 27 member countries to open or close chapters, providing ample opportunity for EU nations to demand more work or to delay proceedings.

Bordering EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, Ukraine would overtake France to become the largest member of the bloc if it joined, shifting its center of gravity further eastward.As a top grain producer its entry would have a huge impact on EU agriculture policy.

Together with Moldova, Ukraine stands in a long line of EU hopefuls — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey — with years’ long membership aspirations and which have felt left behind by Kyiv’s rapid progress.

Ukraine wants to join by 2030, but it must notably carry out dozens of institutional and legal reforms first. That daunting list is led by steps to combat corruption, and includes broad reforms to public administration and judiciary.

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