Should Ukraine be admitted to the European Union?
- On February 28, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed an application for membership to the European Union after releasing a video calling for immediate entry and Russian forces to go home.
- Although Ukraine is not currently part of the European Union, it “will continue to support Ukraine and its people together with its international partners, including through additional political, financial and humanitarian support.” Since 2014, the EU has supported the country with over 17 billion pounds to support reform, and in January 2022, greenlit an assistance package (MFA) of up to 1.2 billion pounds.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was initiated on February 24, 2022, with “unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks” with condemnation coming from the US, Europe, South Korea, Australia, and other countries.
- The European Union is a conglomeration of 27 countries under the status of an internal market, which allows free movement of goods, capital, services, and people between member states. Membership is a “complex procedure” that entails strict EU rules and regulations.
While some may be calling for Ukraine to quickly join the European Union due to the ongoing crisis with Russia, there are several reasons the nation hasn't been invited in the past decade, despite interest from many Ukrainians. Many states within the EU aren't exactly keen to admit more members. Admitting another nation likely to need help is a difficult sell at home for many European politicians. Joining the EU is a major undertaking and means meeting economic, judicial, defense, and other obligations that Ukraine may not be ready to meet. The fastest ever EU application was from Finland, which took five years to complete; Ukraine was simply too hasty to be admitted during this crisis.
Ukraine and Russia have a long history of conflict, and admitting Ukraine into the European Union would likely put the bloc on a course for conflict with Russia. This would be further complicated because a Russian attack on any NATO members in the EU would require a response from all NATO powers, including the United States, as per the treaty agreement. While the current Russian aggression in Ukraine is illegal and tragic, admitting Ukraine into the EU could potentially lead to wide-scale war in Europe and beyond, potentially even nuclear conflict with the United States.
Finally, there are many ways for the European Union and other allies to support Ukraine without hastily admitting it to the bloc. The EU has agreed for the first time in its history to fund military intervention in another country and to send weapons to support the Ukrainian resistance. It has also agreed to take in refugees for up to three years without requiring an asylum application first.
The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia has altered the region's geopolitical landscape. At present, Ukraine has been left alone in no man's land without any military assistance from its European neighbors. But this may change if Ukraine is allowed to enter the European Union. Members of the European nation have supported each through numerous crises in recent decades; admitting Ukraine to the union will perhaps hinder future military conflicts with its Russian neighbor.
At the latest meeting, European commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has admitted that Ukraine does, in fact, belong to the European Union for several reasons: many European nations have been conducting trade with Ukraine for decades, and secondly, there is very close cooperation on the energy grid. In 2014, Ukraine and the European Union already signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). It was a very ambitious bilateral agreement signed by the then-president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and in 2016, Ukraine formally joined the EU with the DCFTA. And in 2017, the Ukraine parliament agreed to join the EU as part of its security and foreign policy.
Almost every nation in the European Union (minus Serbia) has agreed to support the sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The general feeling is that Ukraine is part of Europe—an independent democracy with western beliefs and values. But entering the European Union is a process that takes time. And with peace talks already started between Ukraine and Russia, some might claim joining the European Union may not be a priority so as not to infuriate Putin even further. Regardless, Ukraine deserves a spot in the EU, with peace being the ultimate goal.
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