“Moving Towards EU Member­ship – Reforms in Ukraine and the EU as a Prereq­ui­site for Deeper Inte­gra­tion” – Review

Fotos: Tobias Kunz

One year after Ukraine was granted EU candidate status, we invited high-ranking repre­sen­ta­tives of the EU and Germany as well as experts from leading European think tanks to take stock of devel­op­ments so far. The discus­sion in Berlin on 18/​19 September also looked at the prospects for 2024 and tried to identify necessary reforms.

The expert event, which took place on 18–19 September 2023 and was hosted by the Center for Liberal Modernity in coop­er­a­tion with the Bertels­mann Stiftung, analyzed devel­op­ments in EU-Ukraine relations since Ukraine attained the EU accession country status in June 2022 and discussed the possible trajec­to­ries for the future.

It was the second joined event of the Center for Liberal Modernity and the Bertels­mann Stiftung of this kind. The previous expert discus­sion took place in September 2022.

Repre­sen­ta­tives of the European Commis­sion, the European External Action Service and the Federal Foreign Office, as well as experts from Ukraine, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, the Nether­lands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden and Finland discussed reforms in Ukraine to meet EU criteria and standards, EU policy and its efforts to enhance capacity and reform accession proce­dures, Ukraine’s European inte­gra­tion during the ongoing Russian war of aggres­sion, and Ukraine’s resilience and reconstruction.

The event kicked off with a keynote speech by Matthias Lütten­berg (Commis­sioner for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia at the Federal Foreign Office) and intensive discus­sions during the Welcome Dinner on 18 September.

Ralf Fücks (Director of the Center for Liberal Modernity) and Stephan Vopel (Director of the Bertels­mann Stiftung Berlin and Program Manager “Europe’s Future”) opened the discus­sion moderated by Iryna Solonenko (Head of the Center for Liberal Modernity’s Ukraine Program) on 19 September.

Miriam Kosmehl (Bertels­mann Stiftung), Iryna Solonenko (Center for Liberal Modernity), Susan Stewart (German Institute for Inter­na­tional and Security Affairs), Piotr Buras (Head of the Warsaw Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations) and Snizhana Diachenko (Expert from the Ukrainian Centre for European Policy) presented the input paper for the confer­ence: “Ukraine and the EU: How to Keep up Accession Momentum”.

„Ukraine and the EU: How to Keep up Accession Momentum”

The input paper covered the following topics: the state of alignment of Ukraine with the EU acquis, rule of law reform and admin­is­tra­tive capacity in Ukraine, the optimal modus operandi for EU-Ukraine relations, and the necessary prepa­ra­tions of the EU for enlargement.

Georg Ziegler (Advisor to the Acting Director of the Ukraine Service of the European Commis­sion), Dirk Schuebel (Special Envoy for the Eastern Part­ner­ship of the European External Action Service) and Jean P. Froehly (Head of the URC24 Task Force at the German Foreign Office) presented their comments on the paper and views of their insti­tu­tions, before the discus­sion was opened to all other participants.

One of the central themes was weak and uncertain security envi­ron­ment as long as the war continues, which hinders capacity to reform and economic devel­op­ment of Ukraine (including attracting foreign investors). The experts also discussed the possi­bil­i­ties for Ukraine to gradually integrate with the EU’s Single Market before joining the EU as a full-fledged member.There was a consensus among experts that internal reforms in the EU should not undermine its enlarge­ment potential and that both processes can take place simultaneously.

“Ukraine’s Readiness to Meet the Economic Criteria for EU-Member­ship in the Context of EU-CEE and the Western Balkans“

The second part of the event was dedicated to economic aspects. Olha Pindyuk from the Vienna Institute for Inter­na­tional Economic Studies (wiiw) presented the study “Ukraine’s Readiness to Meet the Economic Criteria for EU-Member­ship in the Context of EU-CEE and the Western Balkans” prepared by the Bertels­mann Stiftung and wiiw. The subse­quent discus­sion also touched upon the question of how and to what extent Ukraine’s recovery and recon­struc­tion can be linked to its  European integration.

What next?

The issue of uncer­tainty was one of the central themes of the discus­sion. The dynamics of the war and, related to this, the security situation will inevitably have an impact on Ukraine’s European inte­gra­tion and the EU. Also, later in October the European Commis­sion will present the enlarge­ment package, where Ukraine’s progress will be assessed and, depending on this, the EU will either recommend opening the accession talks with Ukraine or not. The positive decision would elevate EU-Ukraine relations to a new level and bring Ukraine closer to the future EU membership.

The Center for Liberal Modernity and the Bertels­mann Stiftung will continue to follow devel­op­ments in EU-Ukraine relations and contribute with expertise and policy advice. The Input Paper will be published in October. A similar expert event is already planned for September 2024, in order to take stock of EU-Ukraine relations one year later.


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