Ukraine signs historical document to accede EU

Right now, in the afternoon of this Monday, 28.2.2022, the Ukrainian President Zelenskiy has signed an application for accession to the European Union. There are many who had expressed their position that now, with 27 Member States, the „boat is complete“. But others who see the Russian war against Ukraine in a bigger context, namely with a finality towards the whole West, the whole European Union, which is objectively the case, see things differently.

The application – in an unusual form, and in an unusual time – means a longterm orientation of Ukraine. Nobody can imagine within the EU to see UA within some months in the EU (although in 1990, the East German GDR was in the EU within several weeks!), in view of the many legal implications for a full-fledged EU membership. Normally, the EU accession talks had lasted between seven and up to 10 years, with the exception of the EFTA member states Austria, Finland and Sweden, but this was not a big legal problem as the main system elements had been coincident before.

But there is no problem to give UA a kind of interim status very fast, let’s say within 6-9 months. This with consequences: very fast legal approximation, which should not be a bigger problem, participation in the EU institutions without a voting right, observer Members of the European Parliament who may be given the right to speak, without voting rights, in Committees, full participation in EU programmes, etc. Whatever cannot be fulfilled by UA due to its present situation, if then still prevailing, could pe put on „hold“. Everythubg can be revived easily.

The EU needs now a certain legal flexibility. Not only Council President Michel, but also several Member States‘ politicians reacted first in indicating that this step would be problematic, if one considers some traditional Member States‘ views. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen seems to be the first, hopefully not the only, who has understood the problem. So – welcome, Ukraine! And dear fellows from Kiyv, please do not forget that the EU is sometimes a bit slow. But as you see, it functions.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

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