European press round up: 17 June 2022

The EU Commission made a statement on Friday, June 17, upholding Ukraine’s bid to become a candidate member of the EU.  During their visit to Kyiv on Wednesday four EU leaders spoke in favour of the country’s accession. However, members states are divided on the issue, and arguments for and against can also be found in Europe’s commentaries.

Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications presented by eurotopics.

On the fast track

Berlingske lists the reservations about Ukraine joining the EU:

“The war will prevent normal development and reforms for many years. There are countries like Denmark that fear that the war will give Ukraine an undeservedly quick EU accession. Some fear that reason will give way to emotionalism, and that in six months Ukraine will be put on the fast track based on sympathy, with all the consequences this would entail. Ukraine will be one of the largest countries to be integrated into the EU.”


A no would be heartless and ungrateful

De Standaard sees far more arguments in favour of Ukraine being given EU candidate status already:

“Slamming Europe’s door in their faces would almost be an act of heartless ingratitude which the Ukrainians would never forgive us for. But the one who would be delighted to see Ukraine receive another injury and Europe divided by a dispute is Vladimir Putin. … Moscow can only dream of a situation in which President Zelensky, the Ukrainian civilian resistance and the Ukrainian army have to deal with an unexpected moral setback. Europe can really only take this historic decision with a generous heart and welcome Ukraine into the family.”

A disastrous weakening of the community

Letting Ukraine into the EU’s antechamber along with eight other states would be a fatal move, political scientist Mario Telo warns in The Conversation France:

“According to many observers and no doubt many citizens, the admission of nine more states would lead to a paralysis of the EU institutions, especially in foreign policy, which is decided unanimously. … Adding nine countries (including Serbia, which is particularly close to Russia), any one of which could oppose joint decisions depending on the occasion, seems to run counter to the urgent need for a more efficient and stronger foreign policy. And the same goes for defence policy.”


Symbolism matters

The issue right now is candidate status, not membership, The Economist reminds its readers:

“The fainthearted will object, saying that Ukraine is too poor, too corrupt and now too war-torn to join the cosy club. That is true, but it misses the point. No one imagines that Ukraine will be ready to become a member for many years yet. It will have plenty of hoops to jump through before that can or should happen. If Ukraine does not make sufficient progress, it should not be admitted. The progression from candidate to member is by no means inexorable: Turkey has been in the queue since 1987. … The symbolism of such a statement is huge.”

Many sceptical about fast-track accession

The EU will face a new test, La Stampa predicts:


“On the one hand, there are the supporters of rapid accession – first and foremost Poland and the Baltic republics – and on the other, those who believe that the accession phases should be the same for everyone, without exception. France has said this clearly, and Clément Beaune, the recently appointed Minister for European Affairs, reiterated it yesterday. Others, when asked, have also said this – the Netherlands and Denmark, for example. Yesterday, Germany also officially sided with France. Macron is trying to reassure his Western allies but at the same time not let the thin thread of dialogue with Putin break.”

An urgently need anchor

It would make sense for the EU to invite Ukraine as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia to join now, writes political scientist Alina Mungiu-Pippidi in România Curată:

“I believe that the EU is wasting time by exchanging questionnaires with Moldova and Ukraine (and Georgia). Zelensky is not right when he says that we hesitate because of the Russian lobby, but he is right in saying that an immediate invitation is the only thing we can do. … We should invite all three into the EU, as was once done with Romania and Bulgaria, which were facing the threat of nationalism at the time. … Such an invitation is a political and economic anchor without which the drifting away and the panic cannot be avoided.”


Step by step

Like Macron, Spanish politician Ramón Jáuregui makes the case in for the creation of a sort of antechamber to the EU:

“Ukraine must either become European or it will cease to exist. The accession process will take a very, very long time. … Moldova and Georgia are in the same process. … Europe must keep an eye on the future of these countries because its relations with its neighbours and geopolitical influence are at stake. However this cannot be done at the price of scaling back our demands. … We only need recall the difficulties resulting from the massive integration of the Eastern European countries. … For all these reasons it makes sense to think of a European political community that integrates all those countries in the process of accession.”

Don’t demotivate potential candidates

The EU should provide more support to non-EU countries that are important to it, demands economist and former member of the Portuguese parliament Inês Domingos in Observador:

“Given the urgency for Ukraine, it makes sense to strengthen economic relations and institutional and financial support programmes in neighbouring countries that are of strategic importance to the European Union. … Firstly because, given the risk of growing conflicts in the East, it is a priority for security reasons to support the weaker democracies on our doorstep. But also because an excessively speedy accession process risks demotivating current and potential candidates, and that could be counterproductive to the reforms we are trying to promote.”

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