Speed up the accession process, Ukraine tells the EU

In two weeks, the EU Council in Brussels will decide whether accession talks should begin with Ukraine and Moldova.

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Speaking with Euronews Serbia, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday that the European Union’s accession process should be much quicker than it’s been for other candidate countries in the Western Balkans.

Accession talks for those states, including Serbia, have stalled in recent years.

“We urge the European Union not to repeat the mistake by protracting the accession process for all countries, not only for Ukraine but also for all countries, candidate countries, including, of course, the Western Balkans,” Kuleba said.

Last month, the EU’s executive arm recommended allowing Ukraine to open membership talks once it addresses governance issues that include corruption, lobbying concerns, and restrictions that might prevent national minorities from studying and reading in their languages.

The European Commission has lauded Ukraine, saying that the government “has shown a remarkable level of institutional strength, determination and ability to function.” But it said that talks should only start once it has addressed corruption, lobbying concerns, and restrictions that might prevent national minorities from studying and reading in their language.

Kuleba suggested that “it was Ukraine who took the European Union out of its enlargement coma.” 

“And if we look back two years ago, there was no serious discussion inside the European Union about enlargement and accession talks with Western Balkans were put on hold,” he added.

For 20 years, the prospect of EU membership has been a powerful driver of pro-democratic reform in aspiring countries. But those in the Balkans – Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo – have become discouraged by the bloc’s failure to live up to its lofty membership promises.

On the other hand, some aspirants appear to be treading water.

Bosnia remains plagued by ethnic divisions that make reform an almost impossible challenge. The commission said that it should only start membership talks after more progress is made. It expressed concern about the justice system and other rights failures in the Bosnian Serb part of the country.

Serbia and Kosovo refuse to normalise their relations and stand last in the EU’s line. After one of the worst cross-border attacks in northern Kosovo in recent years, their leaders can’t tolerate being in the same room.

“We, both Ukraine and Serbia belong with Europe. We are both European nations. We have our national interests, but we are all Europeans. So it’s about strategy. It’s about expanding European rules, European principles, European way of life, to its historical space,” Kuleba said of the EU’s enlargement process.

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