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Russia's war fuels need for Ukraine to join EU — Baerbock

November 2, 2023

The German foreign minister says Moscow's war in Ukraine makes the need for EU enlargement more pressing. Kyiv says it is confident about taking a step closer to accession when leaders meet at a summit next month.

Annalena Baerbock speaks at a briefing on the sidelines of a conference on EU expansion
Baerbock praised the relatively united response of EU member states to Russia's invasionImage: Florian Gaertner/photothek/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday said she was confident that the European Union would advance Ukraine's bid to join the bloc next month.

EU leaders are coming together for a December 14 to 15 summit, when a decision is expected on whether to grant Ukraine the formal start of membership talks.

What the German foreign minister said about Ukraine

"We want to see Ukraine a member of our European Union," Baerbock told a conference on EU expansion in Berlin.

"The European Union has to be enlarged. That is the geo-political consequence of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine."

"I am convinced that the European Council in December is going to send out that signal," said Baerbock, from the Green Party, which is part of Germany's ruling coalition government.

Baerbock praised the relatively united response of EU member states to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as "a huge foreign policy achievement."

The minister also said Russia must not be allowed "to plow an imperial trench... which will isolate not only Ukraine but also Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkans" from us.

And the foreign minister told a conference in Berlin that the 27-nation bloc needed to press ahead with "tedious" internal reforms that would allow it to function with more than 30 members.

She said a gradual enlargement should run alongside reforms to limit the growth of central EU institutions such as the European Commission and reduce the use of national vetos.

What Kyiv said about the progress of Ukraine's EU bid

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the same conference that Kyiv was confident about opening EU membership talks this year, pointing to reforms that Kyiv has made even amid its efforts to fight off the Russian invasion.

Candidate countries like Ukraine must meet extensive legal, economic, and political conditions as part of membership negotiations that take many years. The case of Ukraine is further complicated by the full-scale invasion that Russia launched against the country in February last year.

NATO divided over Ukraine's path to membership

However, Kuleba said Ukraine was on course to fulfill its obligations to open negotiations on accession.

"We are optimistic. We did a lot of reforms and we passed legislation necessary to meet, to implement the recommendations," he said.

"So we are looking forward to the presentation of this report and I have reasons to believe that it will pave the way to the decision of the European Council on opening accession talks with Ukraine."

EU member states are undecided about whether to complete their own reforms before they allow in more members, or whether to expand first and then work on the changes.

Kuleba warned against allowing the need for reform to slow down the enlargement process.

"EU reform should not take [the] enlargement process as a hostage and we have to find the right balance between the process of reforming the European Union and continuing with enlargement," he said.

Which countries are applying for EU membership?

Ukraine applied for EU membership within days of Russia's invasion, receiving candidacy status several months later alongside Moldova in a strong signal of support from Brussels.

Six Western Balkan countries — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia — are also candidates for accession.  So too, is Turkey, although its membership negotiations have stalled.

There are also two potential candidates, Kosovo and Georgia.

rc/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)