EU Formally Launches Membership Talks With Ukraine & Moldova

A symbolic ceremony kicked off Tuesday in Luxembourg which marks the start of formal European Union accession talks for the two ex-Soviet countries of Ukraine and Moldova, putting yet more distance between them and Russia.

The process will move forward, despite some recent roadblocks set by Hungary, and from here is likely to take years with nothing guaranteed in what's expected to be a long, arduous path.

Image source: Stillframe/DW

"These are truly historic moments. Ukraine is and will always be part of a united Europe," President Volodymyr Zelensky said when Ukraine was approved for the talks. "Millions of Ukrainians, and indeed generations of our people, are realizing their European dream."

Ukraine had a achieved candidate status in June 2022, but its historic and well-known corruption (with studies showing it to be among the most corrupt governments in the world), was cause for concern and surprise in some corners of Europe.

Tiny neighboring Moldova was also soon after approved for talks, as the West closely watches the situation after accusing Russia of seeking to destabilize the country's pro-Western government, and as Russian troops are present in the breakaway region of Transnistria. 

But in the coming years Hungary promises to be a thorn in the side of Kiev's aspirations. Hungarian Minister for European Affairs Janos Boka said upon arriving for what's formally dubbed the Accession Conference:

"We are still at the beginning of the screening process. It’s very difficult to say at what stage Ukraine is in. From what I see here, as we speak, they are very far from meeting the accession criteria." 

Given that all 27 member countries must approve or deny whether candidate countries conform to EU laws and standards across 35 policy areas (or "chapters") - including on trade and movement of goods, taxation, judicial, and energy and environment - there's ample opportunity for even a single country to block the path forward at every turn.

For example EU candidate Turkey has been in talks for 20 years but to no avail. One European think tank has said Turkey's process has been frozen by a "maze of disputes" - writing that: "Turkey has been a political challenge for the EU for more than a decade now. This stems from the widening gap between them caused by factors such as the evolution of the Turkish political model and its approach to international conflicts. As a consequence, the process of Ankara’s integration with the EU has remained frozen for years; successive reports from the European Commission evaluating its progress in the enlargement process have been strongly critical, which has only aggravated the existing disputes."

Thus Ukraine too is likely to take decades to actually join the EU if at all. A major war ravaging the country is without doubt sure to complicate things further.

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