European states must decide by the end of the year whether the EU opens accession negotiations with kyiv. But the reluctance is expressed more and more openly.
Officially, everyone agrees: kyiv has its place in the European Union. “Ukraine is part of the family”, had even launched the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, shortly after the start of the Russian invasion, on February 24, 2022. At the time, there was the idea that this promise of accession was a gesture of solidarity, of encouragement towards a country under bombs. Nobody found anything wrong with it. Except that certain capitals no longer hesitate to express a certain unease. Like the Austrian Chancellor, who warns against any “accelerated procedure” in favor of Ukraine. No skipping the line for kyiv, essentially warns Karl Nehammer, the conservative leader of Austria, who says out loud what many Europeans are thinking quietly.
>> Accession to the European Union: “Ukraine’s future is with the EU”, says Brussels
There are two reasons for this change in tone. First, with the war dragging on, Ukraine’s bloc of allies is beginning to crack. Support becomes less unconditional. This is evidenced by Poland’s rant on Thursday, September 21, which suspended all new arms deliveries to kyiv, against a backdrop of disagreement over the export of Ukrainian cereals. The second reason is the transition from theory to practice. On paper, nothing is easier than opening your arms to a new member in the European club. In practice, it is not so simple to integrate a country of 44 million inhabitants, or 10% of the current population of the EU. With such demographic weight, it will be relatively easy to form a blocking majority within the European institutions. “Before thinking about enlargement, we must review the rules for decision-making in the EU”warns a French source.
The issue of CAP subsidies
Ukraine is also an agricultural powerhouse, which is another cause for concern. Its accession requires redistributing European subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy – in other words, the 27 will have to put their hands in their pockets. And risk new competition in the cereal and poultry market. However, there is little chance that these reluctances will hinder, in the short term, the start of the accession process. In a month, the European Commission must give its opinion. Then in December, member states will choose, or not, to open negotiations.
These negotiations will then last for years, with regular checks on the reforms undertaken: independence of justice, competition, fight against corruption. This last point represents a scourge for kyiv, several cases have broken out in recent months. “Let’s not go too fast”, warns a Spanish diplomat. For him, out of the question “make the mistake of ten years ago again”, when Europe was forced to expand to include ten new Eastern countries. A warning which reflects the majority state of mind within the 27.