The European Union’s legislative body has recommended that formal accession talks between the bloc and Ukraine should begin next year, a significant milestone in Ukraine’s move toward closer integration with the West.
On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today is a historic day, because today the Commission recommends that the council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine and with Moldova.”
Von der Leyen was speaking on the same day that the Commission published a report suggesting to EU member states that accession talks should finally start, nearly 18 months since the bloc accepted Ukraine as a candidate state. The same report suggests that accession talks with Moldova should also begin.
Ukraine has held ambitions to join the EU for more than a decade. In late 2013, then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to scrap a trade deal with the European Union and instead turn toward Russia sparked street protests and his eventual ouster, followed in March 2014 by Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The aim of joining the bloc – along with NATO – has formally been part of Ukraine’s constitution since 2019.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky applied for EU membership in February 2022, shortly before Russia invaded his country.
While the decision to open negotiations with Ukraine is an important step on Zelensky’s path to EU membership, talks will not begin until a set of conditions have been met. With Ukraine currently at war, it is unclear and unlikely that those conditions will be met any time soon.