Could Ukraine Join the European Union?

on Monday Ukrainian president Zielinski applied to join the EU from a bunker in Kiev and this has put the EU in a bit of a tough spot there's obviously massive political pressure to omit Ukraine in the name of European solidarity but Ukraine's immediate as session would be utterly unprecedented EU recession is usually, a long and complicated process and other candidate countries like turkey have been negotiating for the best part of two decades so in this blog we'll take a look at whether Ukraine will actually be able to join the EU or whether the EU will have to take the controversial step of rejecting Ukraine's application we're going to split this blog into three parts firstly we're going to take a look at EU Ukrainian relations before the war secondly, we're going to consider Zelensky's recent application to join the EU and why it's unlikely to happen anytime soon and thirdly we're going to look at Ukraine's prospects of becoming an EU member at any point in the future so, let's get into the first part and explore Ukraine's relationship with the EU before the war in 1994 three years after independence the EU and Ukraine signed the partnership and cooperation agreement a limited agreement that essentially just mandated yearly meetings between EU representatives and the Ukrainian leadership the agreement came into force in 1998 before expiring in 2008. then in 2009, the EU launched its eastern partnership a joint initiative between the EU and six post-soviet states including Ukraine, the eastern partnership was also pretty limited in scope though it essentially just provided a forum for proving political and economic relations with the EU which is why the EU and Ukraine started negotiations on a more comprehensive association agreement this is where things started to get a bit tense as we described in this blog since the collapse of the Soviet Union Ukraine has been caught between Russia and the west this all came to a head in 2013 when the EU's recession agreement was rejected by the then Ukrainian president an agreement which Ukraine and the EU had been negotiating since 2007. this is because the prime minister instead wanted an exclusive agreement with the Russia-led Eurasian economic union this decision was met with protests in Kiev and ultimately the president was ousted in February 2014. his temporary successor then signed the political provisions of the EU's association agreement in march of that year and a few months later his successor signed the economic part of the agreement in June the agreement then formally came into force on the 1st of September 2017 after ratification by all 28 members of the EU so that's the timeline but what's actually, in this association agreement well as we mentioned earlier there are basically, two sides to it economics and politics let's start with economics essentially the agreement includes a so-called deep and comprehensive free trade agreement which aims to boost trade between the EU and Ukraine by gradually cutting tariffs and aligning regulations when it comes to politics the association agreement aims to encourage democratic political reforms in Ukraine with the aid of EU funding via the eastern partnership initiative and the European neighborhood instrument because of this since 2017 the EU has spent a total of 5.6 billion euros on Ukraine's state-building efforts and on January 24th vondelion announced a new emergency macro-financial assistance package worth another 1.2 billion euros nonetheless despite improving economic and political relations between Ukraine and the EU EU membership was still considered to be a long way off this was both for a whole load of technical legal reasons for example candidate countries have to meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria and have suitable debt levels but there were also big political reasons too for starters the EU has been suffering from what's known as enlargement fatigue taking in new countries takes up a lot of political energy which the EU just didn't have thanks to its own internal disputes and the latest euro barometer polling from 2021 found that 48 of EU citizens are against further enlargement with 41 percent in favor and there were solid anti-enlargement majorities in both Germany and France both of whom are obviously very influential on the European stage not only was Europe reticent to expand but Ukraine was also at the back of the queue because it's both one of the largest and poorest candidate countries Ukraine has a population of about 4-4 million people and a GDP per capita of just 3 as of 2019. for context Croatia which joined in 2013 had a population of just 4 million and a GDP per capita of 13 800 it's not just that though other candidate countries are for the most part both wealthier and smaller than Ukraine making them more appealing options so that was Ukraine's relationship with the EU pre-war friendly but no imminent prospects of membership but how has it changed over the last few days since Russia invaded well, the EU has been remarkably active in their support for Ukraine they've shut down airspace for Russian planes imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia and Putin himself banned Russian state media and even tried to supply Ukraine with European fighter jets this supported action has been matched by rhetoric on Monday the European commission president Ursula van der lion announced that Ukraine quote belongs to us and that they are one of us and we want them in in reaction to this impressive support on Monday evening zolensky applied to join the EU signing an official request from a bunker in Kiev in an impassioned speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday Zielinski said that Ukrainians were not just fighting for their lives but also to be equal members of Europe and without EU membership Ukraine would be alone Zelensky implored the union to show that the EU was with Ukraine and that they won't just let Ukraine fall to the Russians Zelensky's speech was met by a standing ovation in the European parliament who later voted overwhelmingly in favor of Ukraine's accession and at least 10 countries have since expressed their support for Ukraine's immediate accession however other European leaders were quick to stress that Ukrainian accession was still unlikely Charles Michelle president of the European Council said that Ukraine's recession was a difficult subject and that's because there's basically, three obstacles to Ukraine's obsession here firstly there's legal obstacles a session usually takes time it requires unanimous support from the EU 27 as well as negotiations with the EU in 35 different areas secondly it could annoy other candidates Erdogan has already come out and said that while he's sympathetic to Ukraine's obsession he doesn't think it will be fair to turkey who have been waiting to join for nearly 20 years thirdly and most importantly though Ukraine's obsession could seriously annoy Putin and increase the chances of a genuine World War iii so, despite the EU's newfound optimism Ukrainian recession in the immediate term looks unlikely but what about further into the future well it essentially depends on the outcome of the war if Ukraine can survive Russia's invasion then a session will become inevitable the war has turned Ukraine and the EU into if not quite allies than political besties and previous concerns about Ukraine's economy or corruption will likely evaporate but of course this depends on Ukraine actually surviving the war which is an open question at this point in time.