The EU begins membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova

Today, the European Union officially begins accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova.

The landmark move is particularly aimed at sending a vote of confidence in Ukraine's future, as Moscow has gained momentum on the battlefield nearly two and a half years since the Kremlin's invasion.

"These are truly historic moments. Ukraine is and always will be a part of united Europe. Millions of Ukrainians, and indeed generations of our people, are realizing their European dream," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said when the 27 EU countries signed last week to start talks.

Ukraine—followed by its neighbor Moldova—submitted its bids to join the EU shortly after Russia's February 2022 attack.

The start of talks in Luxembourg still marks only the beginning of a lengthy reform process fraught with political obstacles that is likely to take many years.

Standing in the way of that journey will not only be Russia's efforts to destabilize, but also the restraint of the suspicious within the EU, especially Hungary, French media reported.

So far, however, Ukraine — represented at the talks by Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna — has won praise for launching a series of reforms to curb bribery and political interference, even as war rages.

"It is a great credit to the Ukrainian government that it has made such rapid progress in wartime towards accession." And I think that reflects a level of competence and a real commitment on behalf of the Ukrainian government to join the European Union," said Ireland's Foreign Minister Michael Martin yesterday.

Russia's war in Ukraine has reignited pressure on the EU to admit new members.

The EU also granted candidate status to Georgia in December 2023.
It also approved accession negotiations with Bosnia and has ongoing talks with Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia.

Meetings with Ukraine and Moldova today will begin the process of checking how far the laws in the countries are already aligned with EU standards and how much more work is ahead.

Once that is done, the EU should begin setting the terms for negotiations on 35 topics, from taxation to environmental policy.

It seems unlikely that there will be progress towards the next step in the next six months, when Hungary, the most Russia-friendly country in the bloc, holds the EU presidency.

The beginning of the talks resonates strongly in Ukraine because it was the desire for closer ties with the EU that sparked protests back in 2014, which eventually turned into a full-blown crisis with Russia.

The talks come at a tense time in Moldova, after the US, Britain and Canada warned of a Russian "plot" to influence the country's October presidential election.

Sandwiched between war-torn Ukraine and EU member Romania, Moldova's pro-Western authorities often accuse the Kremlin of meddling in its internal affairs.

President Maia Sandu has accused Moscow, which has troops stationed in a breakaway region of the country, of aiming to destabilize Moldova ahead of the vote.

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