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The European Commission recommends opening negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU

Ukraine has completed well over 90% of the necessary steps outlined by the Commission last year, including judicial and anti-corruption reforms. 

The decision was adopted within the 2023 Enlargement Report, providing a detailed assessment of the progress made by Ukraine and other candidates to join the European Union. In particular, the report focuses on the implementation of fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on priorities ahead.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission,
and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during their meeting in Kyiv.
Photo: Presidential Office of Ukraine

“The European Commission recommends that the Council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine (…) Ukraine continues to face tremendous hardship and tragedy provoked by Russia’s war of aggression. Yet, the Ukrainians are deeply reforming their country even as they are fighting a war that is existential for them,” stated Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

Ukraine demonstrated resolve in making substantial progress on meeting the seven steps of the European Commission Opinion on Ukraine’s EU membership application. In particular, Ukraine has established a transparent pre-selection system for the Constitutional Court judges and reformed the judicial governance bodies. It has further developed its track record of high-level corruption investigations and convictions, as well as put systematic effort into addressing the influence of oligarchs. The country has also demonstrated its capacity to make progress in aligning with the EU acquis, even during wartime.

“The remaining reforms are already on their way. That’s good, and the Commission commends these efforts (…) We also recommend that the Council adopts a negotiating framework once Ukraine has carried out the ongoing reforms. And on that, we will report that in March 2024,” added Ursula von der Leyen.

The Ukrainian flag flutters alongside the European Union flag
outside the European Parliament headquarters in Brussels.
Photo: Francois Walschaerts / AFP

President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, commented on this decision by the European Commission, emphasizing that the “history of Ukraine and the whole of Europe has taken the right step”.

“Our country must be in the European Union. Ukrainians deserve it both for their defense of European values and for the fact that even in times of full-scale war, we keep our word and develop state institutions. All the necessary decisions are being adopted. Thank you to everyone who helps!” said Zelenskyy in a video address.

Read more: What happens if Ukraine joins the EU?

Ukraine applied for EU membership on February 28, 2022, after a decade on a distinct pro-European path. Along with a candidate status granted to Ukraine in June 2022, the EU Council identified seven steps the country must prioritize in its application for EU membership. Among them are the reform of the judicial system, the alignment of media legislation with the European directive, reforming the Constitutional Court, combating corruption, fighting money laundering, deoligarchization, and the issue of national minorities.