Ukraine begins talks to join the European Union, and accession is likely to take years

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Tuesday launched membership talks with Ukraine, a decade after Russian forces seized Crimea to deter the country from moving closer to the West, part of a series of events that has put the two neighbors on the brink. The road to war.

Ukraine’s accession negotiations began at an intergovernmental conference in Luxembourg. Just a few hours later, Moldova also launched membership talks. While these events represent a major milestone on their European paths, the talks could take years to conclude.

In his opening remarks delivered via video link, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal He described it as a “historic day” that represents a “new chapter” in his country’s relations with the bloc, especially with the intensification of the war with Russia.

“We are fully aware that we still have a lot of work ahead of us on the way to joining. We are ready for it. We have proven that we are capable of moving quickly and achieving the impossible,” said Shmyhal.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hajja Lahbib, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, described this moment as “a historic moment for all of us, and represents a milestone in our relationship.”

Lahbib said that the European Union condemns “the aggressive and unjustified war waged by Russia against Ukraine and salutes the steadfastness of the Ukrainian people,” and added that the Union will continue to support Ukraine in the war “as long as it takes and as intensely as needed.” “.

Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanyshina headed the Ukrainian delegation in Luxembourg. “It is a truly historic moment for my country. The whole nation stands behind this decision,” she told reporters upon her arrival for the ceremony.

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Stefanyshina said the hope embodied by the opening of the talks would give Ukraine’s citizens “the moral strength to continue to withstand” the Russian invasion.

Intergovernmental conferences have formally begun the process of aligning countries’ laws and standards with those of the 27-nation bloc, which is particularly concerned about corruption in both. However, actual negotiations are unlikely to begin for a few months.

Ukraine and Moldova It applied to join the European Union in the days and weeks after the Russian invasion in February 2022. By June 2022, EU leaders had applied to join the EU. I made it quickly All official. But things have moved more slowly since then for Kiev, and membership, if it happens, may be years away.

Türkiye’s accession talks have continued for nearly two decades without reaching a result.

However, the start of the talks process sends another strong signal of solidarity with Ukraine beyond its borders Financial support The European Union provided what officials estimate at about 100 billion euros ($107 billion). It is also a show of support for Moldova, which has faced its own challenges with Russia.

“It is a historic event for us at historic times for Europe and demonstrates the strong commitment on both sides to peace, security, stability and prosperity in Europe,” Prime Minister Doreen Risian said. “We will spare no effort to achieve our strategic goal of becoming a member of the European Union.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, neighboring Moldova has faced several crises that have at times raised concerns that the country may also be in Russia’s crosshairs, from errant missiles landing on its territory, to an energy crisis that erupted after Moscow cut off gas supplies.

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“We have been greatly affected by the brutal war that Russia is waging in Ukraine, and we are helping each other in security matters as well as in joining the European Union and we will continue to do so,” Resyan told reporters.

Nominated countries must bring their laws and standards into line with EU laws and standards in 35 policy areas, known as chapters, ranging from the free movement of goods through fisheries, taxation, energy and the environment to judicial rights and security.

Unanimous approval must be obtained by all 27 member states to open or close chapters, providing ample opportunity for EU countries to demand further action or delay measures.

Hungary, which takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union from Belgium in July, has been holding back EU and NATO support for Ukraine.

“We are still at the beginning of the examination process. It is very difficult to determine what stage Ukraine is going through,” said Hungarian Minister of European Affairs János Buka upon his arrival at the scene. “And from what I see here, as we speak, they are a long way from meeting the criteria to join.”

Ukraine, which neighbors EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, is expected to overtake France to become the bloc’s largest member if it joins, shifting its center of gravity eastward. As one of the largest grain producers, its entry would have a major impact on EU agricultural policy.

Along with Moldova, Ukraine stands in a long line of EU hopefuls – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey – that have long-standing membership aspirations that appear clear-cut. left behind Thanks to the rapid progress achieved by Kyiv.

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Ukraine wants to join by 2030, but must implement dozens of institutional and legal reforms first. This shocking list is led by steps to anti-Corruption It includes wide-ranging reforms to public administration and the judiciary.

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