European Union Accession and Russian Aggression: European Leaders Meet in Kyiv


Ursula Von der Leyen of the European Union, Charles Michel of the European Council, and 13 other EU leaders joined President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 3. The political figures gathered for a wartime summit close to the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. For the first time in history, members of the EU attended a meeting in a current warzone. The summit ended with a joint statement by the EU and Ukraine, addressing two main factors: accession and Russian violence. 

Ukraine hoped that the meeting would bring good news regarding their admission into the EU. The night before the meeting, President Zelenskiy stated that Ukraine “deserves” to start negotiations before the end of 2023. Nevertheless, the reality of the country joining the EU in the near future is unlikely. Ukraine gained the status of an official candidate to the Union in June of this year, along with Moldova, but the process can take many years. Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal used the meeting to explain that he expects to join the organization “within the next two years.” However, member states have different opinions on the idea of a fast-track membership. Poland supports the idea, while France says that accession will take “decades.” 

Furthermore, the joint statement contained a section titled “Accession Process,” outlining the requirements for Ukraine to join the EU. These include fighting corruption, reforming the judiciary to make it independent from the legislative power, and growing the country’s economy. Last week, Ukraine began working on the former. As part of their anti-corruption efforts, Ukrainian officials raided oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky’s house and opened investigations into high-ranking officials. An anonymous EU official told The Washington Post that this was a sign of Ukraine’s “determination.” The statement also highlighted that the country should reevaluate the selection procedure of judges, and commit to protecting minority rights. Finally, the commissioners closed the section by assuring that the EU intends to integrate Ukraine into its current market. 

In addition to reviewing EU accession, the summit was held to address the European Union’s role in the war. Von der Leyen confirmed that the EU will train twice the Ukrainian soldiers it had until now, totaling 30,000 soldiers. The soldiers will be trained through the Military Assistance Mission established last year. Additionally, the EU will issue military equipment worth €3.6 billion, and fund demining efforts for €27 million. This brings the total military aid from the EU to roughly €12 billion. Josep Borrell of the EU expressed that increasing military assistance is necessary, as Ukraine is protecting “our common values and the basic principles of international law.” 

Moreover, the EU used the opportunity to condemn Russia’s violence and impose more restrictions on the state. In what will be their 10th round of sanctions, the EU will impose trade restrictions on Russian-made refined petroleum products. Von der Leyen explained that the EU and G7 were finalizing a plan for maritime trade price caps on the products. They intend to confiscate frozen Russian assets, many of which are held by the Russian Central Bank. According to Euronews, the summit agreed that the funds from confiscation would be used to fund “Ukraine’s reconstruction.” As for the legal consequences, Von der Leyen announced the creation of an International Court of Justice body to investigate the crime of aggression in Ukraine. Nevertheless, in practice, it is a difficult and time-consuming crime to prosecute. 

Overall, the summit reached numerous conclusions about the EU and Ukraine’s relationship for the near future. Although no promises about joining the EU were made, Ukraine made steps toward becoming a member. As for direct assistance, the EU was clear in its joint statement that it will support Ukraine for “as long as it takes.”

Featured photo by: Reuters

Irene Perez-Lucerga
Irene Perez-Lucerga
A Dual Degree student in Business Administration and International Relations. Born in Barcelona, and also lived in Detroit and Bonn. Currently an Opinion writer for the Stork, and often covers Global Affairs and politics.

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