European Council agrees to grant candidate status to Ukraine & Moldova

The European Council meeting in Brussels has just agreed to offer candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and decided to recognise the European perspective of Georgia and is ready to grant candidate status once the outstanding priorities are addressed.

The prospect of full membership for Ukraine and Moldova is subject to the fulfilment of the criteria as set out in the EU’s enlargement process.

While the decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova has already been hashed out by the Member States’ Ambassadors in their weekly COREPER meeting, the issue of whether Bosnia and Herzegovina should also be granted such status was surprisingly brought up by the EU Member States in the region, notably Hungary and Austria. The issue seems to have been brought up following a meeting with the Western Balkan leaders earlier in the day, which was described as a complete failure by EU leaders, according to sources close to the meeting.

Discussion within the Brussels circle will start in earnest on the implications of future membership of Ukraine, a country with a population of around 44 million people and with a land mass bigger than France. Questions are already being made as to whether Ukraine’s membership would lead to the disintegration of the Union unless reforms on how the Union functions are implemented.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the most prominent leader to question the unanimity criterion in the Common Foreign and Security Policy, often seen as the single element making the EU ineffective on the global stage. Yet, other Member States are already up in arms against the prospect of removing the unanimity criterion in Foreign Affairs.

Critics against such a shift argue that this could lead to the disintegration of the European Union as it could alienate some Member States who might feel underrepresented within the Union. Furthermore, others are also contending that moving to a Qualified Majority Voting would lead to a tilt in the balance of power within the EU, further to the East, possibly also threatening the Franco-German Hegemony. 

The Russian aggression against Ukraine will alter Europe’s security architecture, and the EU would need to invest heavily in defence and security. While NATO guarantees its Members’ security, not all EU countries are in NATO, and others question the overreliance on the U.S., which is described as a volatile ally, following the bitter experience with Donald Trump.

While acknowledging the efforts of the Ukrainian people is important as Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is being trampled upon, the prospect of full membership in the European Union will lead to several discussions on how to reform the European Union.

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