‘Geopolitical’ Summit: EU Opens Door to Ukraine (and Moldova) After 120 Days of War

Written by | Monday, June 27th, 2022

EU leaders granted “candidate” status to Ukraine and Moldova at a summit on Thursday (23 June) in a move that can be seen as a geopolitical response to Russia’s aggression on Europe’s eastern flank. “Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU,” Mr Chales Michel, the President of the European Council, said, describing the European Council’s decision as a “historic moment”.
As heads of state and government gathered in Brussels for their usual pre-summer summit, high on the agenda was also the effort to forge a closer alliance with Western Balkan countries designed to also overcome regional tensions. However, the EU summit seems to have only increased Western Balkan leaders’ frustration. “North Macedonia is a candidate [for] 17 years if I have not lost count, Albania eight, so welcome to Ukraine,“ Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Kyiv to be under no illusions, referring to the long process of joining the bloc. North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski expressed his “dissatisfaction” at the lack of progress in their own bids to join the EU. Though some EU diplomats have previously voiced concerns that giving Ukraine candidate status could offer false hope, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, hailed the decision. The country applied days after the Russian invasion in February, and the process moved at a record speed.
“The status of EU candidacy for Ukraine and Moldova is the last stage of a reorganization of the continent. The time of buffer zones between East and West is coming to an end,“ argues Roman Goncharenko in a latest opinion published by DW. The bloc’s decision to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova is historic, both for the former Soviet republics as well as for the EU. It is a turning point. Ukraine has been knocking on the EU’s door for about 20 years, but Brussels did not want to open it — because of the resistance of influential EU founding members who saw Ukraine as a kind of buffer zone between the EU and Russia and also since Western Europe feared that Ukraine’s accession would change the balance in favor of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, with which Brussels already has a complicated relationship. But, Goncharenko points out that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has now forced the EU to correct its mistake. How consistent Brussels will be remains to be seen. Of course, there will be attempts to slow down this process, but a change of direction is no longer possible.
Still the EU’s support for Ukraine must not end here — the EU and NATO must now seize this historic opportunity to stop Vladimir Putin in his tracks, because if they fail to do so, Europe will face war on its own territory, long-time Kremlin opponent and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky argues in his recent interview with Euronews. “Today, NATO has a great opportunity to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty by participating in this war with weapons, supplies and training Ukrainian soldiers, rather than fighting on its own territories,” Khodorkovsky says. “If this opportunity is missed, I issue a warning: in a few years, or perhaps even earlier, NATO will be directly involved in this war, because it will be happening on the territory of a NATO country.“ Khodorkovsky also warns that “leaders of major European countries still believe that it is possible to agree on something with Putin without showing him their strength… And this is a dramatic mistake, because they’re not talking to a leader who’s like them. No, they’re talking to a gangster. And any gangster who thinks they are in a position of strength and who is being asked to make concessions will in fact try to finish off his victim.”

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