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Ukraine and its importance for the enlargement of the European Union

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In early April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that security is likely to be the biggest issue his country will face in the next decade. He added: “We will become a great Israel with a face of its own. We will not be surprised that (…) in all institutions, supermarkets and cinemas there are people with guns”. Although Ukraine will no doubt retain aspects of a wartime economy even after the current conflict ends, it is already considering how to become a growing and recovering economy. That doesn’t mean going back to what was, but modernizing and reforming.

For this reason, it is not surprising that Ukraine’s accession to the European Union is seen as a crucial element in this process, giving the impetus needed to carry out much-needed reforms and consolidate the country as a democratic system.

On the other hand, the EU is completely unaware that it can handle new enlargement at a pace that makes a significant difference for Ukraine. For this reason, there are those who defend the need to provide greater assistance in other ways, beyond the current EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, but without achieving accession to the European Union.

There are two types of objections to Ukraine’s admission to the EU.

The first type has nothing to do with Ukraine itself, but with so-called “enlargement fatigue”. The objection is that governance of an ever-enlarging EU becomes very difficult as countries do not have the same level of economic development or even quality of institutions. This objection reflects concerns that the EU has not really been able to cope with the recent waves of enlargement. It should also not be forgotten that several countries in the Western Balkans are queuing up but are still a long way from fulfilling the necessary requirements.

The second reason has more directly to do with Ukraine: EU enlargement has now acquired geopolitical significance. The rise of China has brought the world into a state of greater economic competition rather than cooperation. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated geopolitical divisions, forcing the EU to increase its role in the world in a variety of ways.

EU countries will overcome their dependence on Russian energy in months, not years. They will invest more in their military prowess and rethink military alliances in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago; Sweden and Finland, for example, want to join NATO. Crucial to all of this, however, is what the relationship between the EU and Russia will look like in the medium and long term.

Will Russia remain the awkward neighbor to the east, or can the two achieve peaceful coexistence? Everyone agrees that Ukraine’s role in this relationship will be crucial as Europe rearms. But not everyone agrees that EU interests are better served with Ukraine as a full member of the Union. Some see it as a buffer between the EU and Russia. Others believe that as a full member, Ukraine will be a safer counterweight to Russia.

The EU is right to worry about ungovernability. And there is a legitimate concern that enlargement will reduce their ability to further integrate. Attracting more members makes it difficult or simply impossible for countries that want to work more closely together. This tension led to the idea of ​​driving at different speeds.

As the EU tries to come to terms with this idea of ​​multi-speed progress, it must not forget that Ukraine has the right to choose where it belongs. Ukraine’s wish to become a member is a confirmation of the EU as a value system worth emulating. This endorsement comes with every country applying for membership, but Ukraine finds itself in a situation where it cannot afford not to choose sides, or it will cease to exist. Your application to join the EU is more than just trying to join a club: it is a struggle for survival.

The real question for EU leaders as they consider Ukraine’s bid at the June 23-24 summit and beyond is what kind of club the European Union should be.

As a club of like-minded countries, it will certainly be easier to manage from within. But differences of opinion will also become entrenched, which makes working with people who think differently more difficult.

Or it can be a sphere of influence that recognizes that global problems cannot be solved by just working with like-minded people. Global problems, from climate change to nuclear disarmament, require a stronger confrontation with those who think differently. Such a club would need to be reflective and innovative in how to integrate its increasingly diverse membership. But it would be a club worth joining.

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Source elpais.com

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