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Ukraine to get cold shoulder on rapid EU entry – POLITICO

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Top EU leaders are traveling to Ukraine this week, but they won’t promise that the war-torn country might join the bloc anytime soon.

Brussels is expected to condemn Ukraine’s hopes for a quick EU membership during the two-day summit in Kyiv, according to a draft statement to be released at the event and seen by POLITICO.

The statement does not specifically mention the ambitious deadline set by Ukraine, and the country’s prime minister, Denys Shmygal, even told POLITICO this week that he hopes to join within two years. Instead, the document offers only vague guarantees that the process will move forward once all milestones set by the EU have been reached.

“The EU will decide on further steps when all the conditions specified in the conclusion of the commission are fully met,” the draft says. “Ukraine stressed its determination to meet the necessary requirements in order to start accession negotiations as soon as possible.”

According to several EU diplomats and officials, the wording follows strong opposition from some EU countries over over-promising Ukraine about its EU membership prospects, which Kyiv asked to be raised at the summit. While EU national leaders will not be attending Friday’s summit, officials from the European Council, which includes all 27 EU leaders, are in touch with EU countries about the final communiqué.

EU leaders granted Ukraine official candidate status last June in record time, but the move was far easier than Ukraine’s rapid progress through the grueling negotiations required to bring the candidate country into line with the EU’s intricate systems, rules and regulations. This process usually takes years and years and often stops for long periods of time.

However, EU countries are divided on how quickly the bloc should try to get Ukraine through this accession process.

“There was clear tension between Poland and the Baltic countries on the one hand and other EU countries over the language of EU accession,” said one EU official.

The official added that tensions between European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are also playing a role in the debate.

“They compete to outdo each other in relation to Ukrainians,” the official said.

However, while no breakthroughs are expected in EU accession talks, Brussels is determined to show solidarity with Ukraine on other issues.

“The very fact that we are hosting a summit in a country at war” is significant in itself, a senior EU official said before the meeting.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen | Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Indeed, a large number of senior EU leaders and commissioners are expected to arrive in Kyiv this week to meet with EU officials.

Progress is expected on some fronts, such as an agreement on a visa-free regime for manufactured goods; suspension of customs duties on Ukrainian exports for another year; movement towards Ukraine’s accession to the EU payment scheme, which simplifies bank transfers in euros; and Ukraine’s integration into the EU free mobile roaming zone.

Also on the agenda of the summit will be Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan, the recovery challenges facing Ukraine and food security issues, while the EU is set to announce a new €25 million humanitarian aid package to tackle Russian mining problems in the country.

Another EU official said the summit sends “a strong signal that we support the country that has been the victim of aggression and emphasize Ukraine’s right to a just peace at the end of this war. Ukraine was attacked, Ukraine has the right to self-defense, which they are exercising… and only this can be the basis for a just world.”

The path of reform

The document also emphasizes the need for “a comprehensive and consistent implementation of judicial reform” in accordance with the recommendation of the Venice Commission, referring, in particular, to the need to reform the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

Although Ukraine recently announced changes to the court, in particular on how judges are appointed, the Venice Commission, a prominent advisory body that includes constitutional lawyers, remains concerned about the powers and composition of the body that selects candidates for the court.

This week, Shmyhal told politicians that Ukraine would resolve these issues. Kyiv is keen to signal that it is cracking down on corruption amid fears in Washington and Brussels.

“We are consulting with the European Commission to make sure that all the conclusions drawn can be included in the text,” he said.

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