Since February 2022, Ukraine has been the focus of the world’s attention. The majority of the world’s countries have denounced the Russian invasion and are demanding an end to the war.
This was the last thing Europe needed to go through after the pandemic.
Even now, EU countries are facing problems due to the conflict. For example, there has been a significant rise in gas and electricity prices. On the positive side, countries, particularly in Western Europe, are recovering from the pandemic.
Europe is receiving many more tourists from around the world. For example, compared to 2021 Italy has seen a significant increase in the number of tourists that require ETIAS authorization.
Despite the problems and ongoing recovery, the EU is firmly standing behind Ukraine.
All of this support has put Ukraine on the fast track to becoming a member of the European Union.
On June 23rd, 2022 Ukraine became an official candidate for membership in the European Union.
This process could take years, but can significantly help Ukraine’s current situation as well as its recovery.
Some have wondered if Russia will try and stand in the way.
In the immediate future, that does not seem to be the case. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that he does not have much problem with Ukraine’s candidacy.
The opportunity to join the European Union is what any country in the region would love to have.
Why exactly is that?
The main benefit that members receive is access to the European Structural and Cohesion Funds.
These funds go a long way to pay for economic and transport development. The funds also help social renewal and state reform. Regional development and green energy are also improved for new EU member states.
Relatively new members like Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have seen an improvement in each area.
In many cases in the European Union, EU countries gain access to the Eurozone. This means they adopt the Euro as their currency, which they could use in many other EU countries.
Ukraine could also benefit from adopting the Euro. The Euro is one of the world’s strongest currencies.
Commerce between Ukraine and other European countries and major economies around the world. As a member, they could enter directly into the trade agreements of the EU.
These factors mean the country’s economy could improve faster if it is also brought into the Eurozone.
Ukrainian citizens would also be able to live, work, and travel to other EU countries without the need for a visa.
This will increase the number of students who can study abroad in another country in the European Union.
Becoming an official candidate is a huge first step, but this does not mean that the country will become a member of the European Union.
It has to meet quite a few criteria, and the European Union has high standards.
The “Copenhagen Criteria” is used to review each candidate’s potential of joining the EU. Candidates must show stability in the areas of politics, economics, and administration.
If they can do that, there is a decent chance of entry.
At the moment, there is a lot of debate about whether Ukraine needs to complete reform in all 3 areas. The conflict in Ukraine has shown the country has improved its political stability.
Ukrainian President Zelensky has become one of the most popular political figures around the world over the past few months. His popularity along with Europe’s support for Ukraine in this conflict are key factors that have led to this candidacy.
Despite this, there still needs to be a significant improvement in other areas to gain EU membership.
Ukraine’s economic situation is arguably their largest hurdle at the moment. Before the conflict with Russia, it was one of the poorest countries in Europe.
In 2017 Ukraine was the poorest country in Europe by nominal GDP per capita. The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped the economic situation in the country.
Fortunately for Ukraine, the economic situation has recently been improving.
There is also the issue of the acceptance from all 27 current European Union members.
There is strong support from France, Germany, and Italy, but not every EU member is content with the candidacy.
For Europe, it has been a difficult road, and for Ukraine even more so. With this opportunity, Europe may become more united than ever.
If Ukraine manages to gain EU membership, it will likely be after a very long application process.
Over recent decades, some countries in the region have managed to join the EU after a period of similar turmoil.
Ukraine has the potential to become an important member due to its location on the Black Sea and the Russian border. It will also have the chance to greatly improve its economic and political stability in the future.
Will the country fix its problems with Russia and bring the war to a close?
That all remains to be seen.