Moves toward becoming a member of Europe

Ukraine, which is under invasion by Russia, has taken a step toward being accepted into the European family. However, a number of issues must be resolved before it can become a member of the European Union.

At an EU summit, the bloc approved Ukraine and its neighbor Moldova as “candidate countries” for EU membership.

Ukraine applied for membership at the end of February, shortly after the Russian invasion began, and Moldova did so in March. The approval process for candidate status normally takes several years. The swift, special-case approval is a symbolic message of solidarity and support from the EU for both countries.

“It’s a unique and historical moment. Ukraine’s future is within the EU,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement. This will be a significant encouragement to the people who are fighting Russia.

To actually become a member, however, Ukraine must meet the criteria required by the EU, such as having stable institutions that guarantee democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as a functioning market economy.

Ukraine has long been criticized for corruption. It is expected to take several years just to begin full-fledged membership negotiations, after the country has gone through various reforms. It will surely not be easy for Ukraine to recover from the ravages of the invasion and build its economic strength to compete within the EU.

The EU has decided to provide up to €9 billion (about ¥1.28 trillion) in financial assistance to Ukraine and to help it secure grain export routes. It is important that the EU countries maintain unity so that stable assistance can continue to be provided.

Amid the prolonged invasion, differences of opinion have emerged within the EU over diplomacy toward Russia and the nature of a ceasefire.

Germany and France are conspicuously asserting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be pressed too far, and are seeking to achieve an early ceasefire through dialogue.

In contrast, such countries as Poland and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are in close proximity to Russia, are warning that a casual ceasefire would make the expansion of the areas under Russian control a fait accompli and could lead to further invasions.

To prevent Putin from taking advantage of these differences, the countries concerned must coordinate their efforts and opinions.

In the French National Assembly election this month, the far-right and the left-wing blocs made large gains by harnessing dissatisfaction with the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron, and his centrist alliance was unable to maintain its majority.

Rising prices caused by the invasion and the sanctions against Russia are a common challenge for all countries. The impact on people must be mitigated through measures such as securing alternative sources of energy imports and support for low-income populations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2022)