Ukraine’s path to joining European Union still a long road: Brock expert

Despite an outpouring of European support for Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s recent invasion, Ukraine’s hope to fast-track its entry to the European Union (EU) was always likely to be a “non-starter,” says Brock University expert Paul Hamilton.

“Ukraine has enormous moral capital and the support of the European Parliament and the European Commission president, but the process of joining the EU is arduous and can take years,” says Hamilton, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. “The joint statement of the European Council issued Thursday confirms that a special route to membership for Ukraine was never an option.”

European Union leaders meeting for a two-day summit in Versailles Thursday, March 10 expressed support for Ukraine but did not agree to fast-track the country’s entry to the European Union.

Hamilton explains that accession to the EU requires:

  • a treaty
  • a timeline for adjusting to EU norms (known as the Copenhagen Criteria)
  • harmonization of EU law with Ukrainian law in 35 policy areas, and
  • a unanimous vote of the European Council, which includes the heads of all 27 member states.

The concerns expressed by European leaders at the summit about security, equity and thoroughness came as no surprise to Hamilton, either.

“Ukraine is not considered a fully consolidated democracy by international observers like Freedom House, which categorizes Ukraine as ‘partly free’ due to concerns about corruption, judicial independence and rule of law,” says Hamilton. “Ukraine also does not have complete sovereignty over its entire territory, as Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 and the Donbass region has an armed separatist movement. This has to be a concern for the EU, and obviously, the recent invasion further complicates all of this.”

However, Hamilton believes that the Western reaction overall must have come as “a shock” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Perhaps Putin thought the West was too divided and too afraid of conflict to respond seriously to invasion,” Hamilton says. “The response of the international community to the seizure of Crimea was mild compared to what we see today. Putin may also have judged the United States to be too divided to undertake a serious and firm response.”

Hamilton notes that the U.S. has long supported European integration and bringing Ukraine into the Western geopolitical orbit, so the “bipartisan, effective and quick” actions taken by the U.S. administration are not surprising.

“The horrific nature of the attack on Ukraine and the images we are seeing has galvanized U.S. public opinion,” he says. “A poll conducted last week by Reuters/Ipsos showed substantial bipartisan majorities in favour of sanctions, even on oil, a no-fly zone and supplying weapons to Ukraine.”

Read more stories in: Faculty & staff, Featured, News, Social Sciences
Tagged with: , , , ,