‘With Ukraine, the EU must live up to its historical responsibility’. Source: euronews The Briefing

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‘With Ukraine, the EU must live up to its historical responsibility’

By David McAllister, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine changed our world overnight.

The people of Ukraine are not only fighting for their home country. They are bravely defending the essential values that we in the European Union enjoy. This war has not only altered the European security architecture – it has had an immediate and fundamental impact on the EU’s own future.

Only five days after the tragic events on 24 February, Ukraine presented its application for EU membership. The Republic of Moldova and Georgia followed suit with their respective bids. In the midst of the Russian aggression, these three countries aspire for freedom, sovereignty, democracy and peace. The European integration project is based on these central values, with solidarity, reconciliation and cooperation at its very core.

The EU has overcome enormous challenges to achieve the longest period of peace in our continent’s history. Now, we must re-learn to think geopolitically and strategically. We cannot afford to lose further time.

The European neighbourhood policy is at a historic moment. Granting Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status sends a strong political message that the countries have irreversibly chosen a European path.

As in previous accessions, these countries must fulfil all political, judicial and economic necessary preconditions before joining the EU as full-time members. Based on the “Copenhagen criteria,” I welcome that the Commission has presented the necessary steps for all countries in an objective manner.

It is obvious the governments in Kyiv, Chișinău and Tbilisi have a long way ahead. Ambitious reforms have still to be implemented. This includes fighting corruption, improving the functioning of their market economies, modernising the administration and further aligning with the EU acquis.

The candidate status is only the beginning of a lengthy and challenging process involving conditionality. At this moment, a war is ongoing in the heart of Europe. The EU’s focus is on supporting Ukraine financially, politically, militarily as well as with humanitarian aid.

However, we must look further.

In this regard, the European Parliament calls to review the European neighbourhood policy. It is about thoroughly assessing the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans and within the Eastern Partnership.

The enlargement process must be more predictable, more dynamic and more political. We must make much clearer what we require from accession countries and what we offer in return if they deliver on the conditions. 

With this in mind, a “European political community” has been proposed, notably by President Emmanuel Macron of France. This new idea needs to be further analysed if it aims to complement our strategy for the neighbourhood. But I must stress that a new political community should not be a waiting room for EU aspirants.

The EU must assume geopolitical leadership vis-à-vis the Eastern neighbourhood and the Western Balkans. We need to combine two approaches: first, to invest in the success of democracies. This requires that our policies towards those aspiring to join the EU family are transparent, coherent and merit-based. At the same time, it also requires increased technical, financial and political assistance from Brussels.

For this to happen, the EU’s enlargement process needs to stay high on the agenda.

Second, it is about enhancing our foreign, security and defence policy against the background of an aggressive authoritarian Kremlin regime. The issues raised by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine go far beyond the tragic situation and the EU’s enlargement policy.

The European Union has to equip itself urgently with the means and tools to respond to global strategic competition and complex security threats.

There must be no hesitation or disunity. In this moment of geopolitical re-definition, EU leaders must live up to their historical responsibility.

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