Ukraine’s candidacy for the EU sends a signal. Now the hard part begins.



Until last week, Ukraine’s candidacy for membership of the European Union was far from a foregone conclusion.

For starters, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made no secret of their lack of enthusiasm for the idea, with Macron suggesting that a lower-level political alliance might be the best choice.

But after visiting Ukraine last week — inspecting wreckage and graffiti that, according to reporters on the ground, begged “Make Europe, not war” — leaders announced, despite political pressure and perhaps a desire to get on the right side. to stand. of history, their support. And on Thursday, the bloc made Ukraine’s candidacy official, in a striking display of unity widely seen as a rebuke to Russia for waging a brutal war to control the former Soviet republic.

Why we wrote this

European Union leaders have nominated Ukraine to join the bloc, boosting Ukrainian morale and EU solidarity. But the practical difference may be a decade or more away.

“Ukraine is going through hell for a simple reason: its desire to join the EU,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on the eve of the announcement. She later added that it would serve as a signal “to the world that the EU is united and strong in the face of external threats”.

But while the transition to candidate status took place in record time, becoming a member itself is an arduous process that can take more than a decade – sometimes more than two. It means meeting high standards to tackle, among other things, the kind of entrenched corruption that Ukraine and other candidate countries have long struggled with.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

From left to right, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen address a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, 23 June 2022.

The challenge for Kiev in the coming months and years, analysts say, will begin with transformative reforms to entrench human rights, a sustainable market economy and the rule of law across the country as a war is fought.