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The Case for Ukraine’s EU Membership

It will be many years before Ukraine becomes a European Union member state, but the country’s newly acquired candidate status is a strong morale boost in its existential war against Russia. The EU must now ensure that Ukraine eventually takes its place where it belongs – in the European family.

BRATISLAVA – In September 2002, I published a commentary in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Kyiv Has a Case for the EU.” I was a first-term Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and, I believe, the first elected official anywhere openly to support Ukraine’s inherent right to future European Union membership. Nearly 20 years later, the EU has at long last decided to grant Ukraine candidate status. The move is both momentous and fully justified.

For most of the intervening two decades, Ukraine’s declared Euro-Atlantic aspirations had remained just that. As a European Parliament Rapporteur for the 2004 European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) Report and again as Rapporteur for the Eastern Partnership Dimension in 2007, I had long battles to convince my German and French colleagues of the merits of Ukraine’s EU case.

To its credit, the European Parliament in 2007 settled for compromise wording that was vague but hopeful. It did not reject Ukraine’s right, under Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, to join the bloc. But nor did it suggest, as had been the case since 2004 for the countries of the Western Balkans, that Ukraine was entitled to the formal status of a “candidate” or “potential candidate” country.

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