European citizens call on the EU to recognize Ukraine as candidate country

European citizens call on the EU to recognize Ukraine as candidate country
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky Credit: Ukrainian government

A petition calling on the EU to officially recognize Ukraine as a candidate country has already been signed by 226,000 citizens across Europe.

The petition was initiated by French entrepreneur Arnaud Castaignet, Head of Communications and Policy at cleantech company Skeleton Technologies, and is promoted by, a tech platform for people-powered social change.

In the petition, the signatories call on fellow citizens in the EU member states to create a wave of support for the Ukrainian people and to encourage their heads of state and government to grant Ukraine the status of an official candidate country, a crucial step in the accession process.

“With this call, we want to tell the Ukrainians that we support them and that, despite the horrible acts committed by Vladimir Putin and his army, there will be a future. And, like them, we want this future to be free, European, and with us.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed his country’s application for membership in the EU on 28 February. The application was mainly symbolic since there is no “fast track procedure” for joining the EU which could help Ukraine.

But a quick and positive EU response to Ukraine’s application would no doubt send an important signal and bolster Ukraine’s morale in its fight to survive as an independent and democratic country. As previously reported, EU membership comes with a mutual defence clause. One of the main issues in a political solution is legally binding security guarantees to Ukraine.

At most, Ukraine’s application set in motion a process which will take time, according to European Commission President von der Leyen.

How long time does it take to become a candidate country and start negotiations on EU membership?

This is a process that can take years judging from the applications of the Western Balkans countries. One crucial first step is the European Commission’s opinion on the application, at the request of the European Council.

Only this part of the process – from inviting the Commission to draft the opinion and its actual delivery – may last up to one year or longer.

In forming its opinion, the Commission sends a questionnaire to the applicant country to assess its readiness to move forward in the accession process, namely to be granted candidate country status and open accession negotiations. The questionnaire includes thousands of both simple and complex questions aimed at providing precise information about the country.

The applicant country is usually given a 3-month indicative deadline to complete the questionnaire. According to the Commission, the questionnaire is a core element of the information gathering process, but not the only one. In parallel, the Commission deploys many expert missions and peer reviews with EU Member States' experts.

After the Commission has submitted the opinion and the EU member states have decided unanimously to grant the country candidate status, the accession negotiations are opened with the agreement of all member states. But first the Commission has to draft a negotiating framework as a basis for the talks, which also needs to be agreed by all of them.

While the war in Ukraine rages on, the EU is still considering how to respond to Ukraine’s application. Unless the process is speeded up, any decision might come too late.  President Zelensky twitted on Friday said he discussed further support to Ukraine with European Council President Charles Michel. “Special attention was paid to our movement towards membership in the EU.”

In a recorded speech Saturday night, Zelensky also repeated his call to Russian President Putin for direct talks. Direct peace talks are the only way for Russia to limit the damages of its invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian disaster it has caused.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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