Ukraine is already a candidate to join the European Union. The EU leaders grant the country invaded by Russia the status of candidate after the positive evaluation of the European Commission and thereby send a political message with a double recipient: the Ukrainian population and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. “Okay, the European Council has just agreed on EU candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova. A historical moment. Today marks a crucial step on your way to the EU. Congratulations, Volodymyr Zelensky, Maia Sandu and the people of Ukraine and Moldova. Our future is to be together.”
“We have also had the opportunity to agree to continue supporting Ukraine in the financial and military sphere, as well as due to the consequences of the Russian attack on the food crisis,” said Michel, who stated that there is a commitment to “rekindle” the European process with the Western Balkans: “We are committed to resolving disputes that are a brake on progress in the process, pending the decisions of the Bulgarian Parliament [sobre Macedonia del Norte]. And with Bosnia there is interest in accelerating, so that the European Council can return to this issue, according to reports from the European Commission. In addition, we support the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina so that there is progress.”
This Commission report, according to some sources, would be ready by the end of the summer, in October.
Michel also explained that there is “good reception” to the idea of the European Political Community, launched by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, current president of the Council of the EU.
“This is a defining moment”, said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: “The three countries are part of the European family, and this historic decision confirms it.
The European Council, in fact, has also agreed to grant the “European perspective” to Georgia, the previous step to the status of a candidate country. “Today is a great day for Europe”, said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: “Congratulations to President Zelenski, President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. Your countries are part of our European family. And today’s historic decision by the leaders confirms that.”
Von der Leyen has insisted: “Everyone is going to advance in the reforms because they are positive for the countries, for democracy, they reinforce the competitiveness of the countries and they are good for their citizens. I am very convinced that the decision strengthens everyone, and shows that the EU is united and strong in the face of external threats”.
President Macron explained: “A week ago in kyiv we made the decision to work towards candidate status, and that everything depended on a process. And this week we have taken giant steps, also thanks to the European Commission. It is Europe’s responsibility to be where we belong, also with North Macedonia, which has taken so many steps, or Albania. Our neighborhood is more capital than ever, and we must talk about multiple forms of cooperation”. And he added that the context of war has accelerated Ukraine’s candidate status: “I recognize it.”
Macron has acknowledged North Macedonia’s “historic work”, including “changing the name of his country”, but Bulgaria has called for changes: “And we are putting a lot of pressure, but we cannot ignore it. We are very close to an agreement that will meet Bulgaria’s demands, that is compatible with what North Macedonia can do. In the next few hours there will be a vote in the Bulgarian Parliament and if everything progresses next week in the COREPER [la reunión de embajadores de los 27 ante la UE] it will be unlocked for North Macedonia and Albania to advance.”
Balkan protests: “They discuss the sex of angels”
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who has attended the summit between the Western Balkans and the European Union (EU), has shown his frustration with the EU accession process.
“I have asked them to please not allow the European Union to become a congregation of priests who discuss the sex of angels while the walls of Constantinople are falling apart,” he said after meeting with the leaders of the 27 Member states.
Rama, furthermore, has advised the Ukrainians not to “have their hopes up” because the accession process will be very long.
“North Macedonia has been a candidate for 16 years and Albania for eight, so welcome to Ukraine,” he joked upon arrival at the summit.
Bulgaria has once again shown no willingness to lift its veto to start accession negotiations with North Macedonia until it recognizes that it has a common history, identity and language with Sofia.
Diplomatic sources have explained that the leaders of the European Union and the Western Balkans have held “an exhaustive debate of almost four hours. The meeting clearly and unequivocally reiterated the European perspective of the Western Balkans and the future of the region in the European Union. The war in Ukraine has put EU enlargement front and center. First of all, this means advancing the accession process. Moving forward with reforms, particularly those related to the rule of law, judicial reforms and the fight against corruption. It also means that accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania must start without delay; this is the absolute top priority. Work continues to find a mutually acceptable solution to the remaining bilateral problems between Bulgaria and North Macedonia with a sense of extreme urgency. The EU Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans will provide up to €30 billion of investments.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “For almost 20 years the states and citizens of the Western Balkans have been waiting for the opportunity to become members of the European Union. It is of paramount importance that it is now a credible promise. I just want to mention that North Macedonia has changed its name to make it possible to become a member of the European Union. We have to take a decisive step forward.”
The Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, for her part, has stated about the status of Ukraine and Moldova as candidate countries: “It is an incredibly important signal, especially for all those who are now fighting for Ukraine and its independence and its right to take their own decisions. It is a historic and unusual decision. Many reforms will be required in these countries before they can become full members of the EU. It is an important message for Ukraine that it has a future in Europe and in the European Union.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Exactly 19 years ago, at the Thessaloniki summit, the way was opened for the Western Balkans to join the European family. Unfortunately, since then there has been minimal progress and I fully understand why in the Western Balkan countries there are doubts about the intentions of the European Union”.
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, for his part, has pointed out: “We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans. Today we should be starting negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and I certainly cannot hide my disappointment. My disappointment, I suppose, is the disappointment of many people. Things are not going well, and we should try to fix it. This shows, once again, that unanimity is a big problem when making decisions”.