REVIEW #20: Ukraine’s Bid to the EU: What Is to Be Expected?

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has repeatedly expressed her support for Ukraine and its path to the European Union (EU). However, at the same time, she pointed out how long and difficult this path will be. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine accelerated Ukraine’s efforts to join not only the EU, but also NATO. Nonetheless, membership in both these institutions – in addition to carrying out a number of reforms and aligning with the required standards – requires the consent of all member states. Due to the wide spectrum of far-reaching impacts on the entire European Union, the path to the EU and the course of the entire process may be much more complicated for Ukraine than admission to NATO.

In addition to Ukraine’s readiness itself, there is the question of the need for internal reform of the EU, i.e. European institutions, policies, and finance that would be necessary for such an expansion. Enlargement by a country the size of Ukraine would fundamentally change the distribution of funds from the EU budget and the functioning of key EU policies, including agricultural and cohesive policy.

In the context of future functioning of the enlarged EU, some parties also mention a proposal to replace unanimous decision-making with qualified majority decision-making – for example, with regard to taxation or foreign policy, which can be particularly problematic for smaller member states with a more complicated path to the blocking minority.



As part of the discussion on ensuring the so-called ‘absorption capacity’ of the European Union and strengthening the credibility of the enlargement process, the issue of institutional reform of the EU is also mentioned. This could lead, for example, in the direction of two-speed EU integration. The core group would form a fiscal union and the outer group would include new member states and states that do not prefer deeper integration.

However, such a move could also mean a split in the EU, a loosening of relations between the two groups, and a feeling of second-class status for some states without a common currency – among which the Czech Republic currently ranks. Ukraine’s potential accession to the European Union is a complicated process that requires not only the fulfillment of many criteria and the implementation of reforms by the candidate country, but also concrete steps and structural changes in the EU.

The Unique Nature of Ukrainian Ascension

Ukraine is in a very complex military, political, and economic situation, which no acceding country to the EU has had to deal with in the history of enlargement. The only country that joined the EU with a territory partially militarily occupied by a foreign state was the Republic of Cyprus during the enlargement in 2004. But the security reality in Cyprus during the accession negotiations with the EU certainly did not resemble the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine that we know today. Let us also keep in mind that the cancellation of Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU de facto led to the Euromaidan and the emergence of a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.


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Sarka Shoup