IT IS one thing to send heartfelt, fuzzy messages to Ukrainians reassuring them about their efforts to join the European Union. Indeed, there is an argument that the need for continued solidarity across Europe with these embattled people calls for such gestures of goodwill.
But we all need to recognize that there is a simple reality at play here – all EU membership applications are long and complex. And many key EU member states are very cautious about adding new members now without thorough reflection and detailed debate.
In order to get across the border, all 27 member governments must unanimously support the application for membership. It also has to be approved by an absolute majority of all 705 members of the European Parliament. Finally, each member state must ratify this membership in its own chosen format.
Even if Ukraine weren’t at war, the country would consider up to four years for a bid process, with strict calls for changes to meet EU legal, commercial and social standards.
But the Russian invasion, which is turning Ukraine into a battlefield, raises a very grim reality: if there were some sort of explicit EU membership, there would be real pressure on key member states to send in troops.
Article 42(7) of the 2009 EU Treaty of Lisbon contains a “mutual assistance clause”. This provides that a beleaguered state can request help in the event of a disaster – and the other member states would be obliged to provide this help “with all the means at their disposal”.
This does not mean that Ireland must automatically send soldiers. We know that after rejecting Lisbon in 2008, Irish voters reversed their decision in another referendum in 2009. This shift in Irish public opinion was achieved in part through a legal recognition of that country’s “traditional policy of neutrality”.
But for the other EU frontline states and the larger powers like Germany and France, direct intervention would be difficult to avoid, most likely through the NATO defense alliance. That point was raised by many Brussels officials this week when they firmly ruled out EU membership.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his embattled government colleagues know all this. And given the circumstances, you can’t blame them for continuing to exaggerate their chances.
But it takes on some aspects of a charade. Some thoughtless statements by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last Sunday were quickly followed up by her spokesman on Monday.
The spokesman said that President von der Leyen’s positive statements about Ukraine’s imminent EU accession did not turn traditional procedures upside down.
On Monday it emerged that the presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Slovakia had signed an open letter urging the leaders of other EU member states to consider the application for membership to support Ukraine.
“We firmly believe that Ukraine deserves an immediate prospect of EU membership,” the heads of state and government said in their joint letter.
“Therefore, we call on the EU member states to consolidate the highest level of political support for Ukraine and to allow the EU institutions to take steps to immediately grant Ukraine the status of an EU candidate country and start the negotiation process,” added her.
That same evening, Mr. Zelensky signed and handed over an official application for EU membership.
EU officials said candidate countries ready to join the bloc usually face a long and complicated process, often involving major reforms to be implemented. Candidate status for Ukraine will be hard to come by.
First President of the European Council Charles Michel speaks of giving President Zelenskyy a regular seat at every meeting of heads of state and government as a further sign of support.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/joining-the-eu-is-a-long-and-complex-process-and-entry-for-ukraine-is-not-happening-soon-41405490.html Joining the EU is a long and complex process – and Ukraine’s accession will not happen soon