Taras Chornovil: Ukrainians will like reforms for EU candidate, but authorities won't

Taras Chornovil: Ukrainians will like reforms for EU candidate, but the authorities won't

Today, June 23, Ukraine may hear a historic decision on its further path. Heads of state and government of the EU countries gather for the summit in Brussels. They should announce the granting of the status of candidates for membership of the European Union to Ukraine and Moldova.

“KP in Ukraine” talked with international expert, people’s deputy of the III-VI convocations of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Taras Chornovil , to find out the answers to the most frequently asked questions in connection with the future decision.

32 points of remarks

– Mr. Taras, the European Commission has recommended granting Ukraine the status of an EU candidate. The previous positive decision was taken at a meeting of permanent representatives of the EU countries and the Council of the EU. Is there a risk that something will go wrong today?

– The recommendation of the European Commission is a mandatory but not sufficient condition for granting us such a status. Neither does the support of an absolute majority in the European Parliament, which has an advisory vote on this issue, guarantee a positive answer.

But we have a positive interim solution – the votes of all members of the European community for granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership. Therefore, I do not see any external obstacle to refusing Ukraine. Unless there is some incredible provocation on the part of the Ukrainian authorities, then there may be options.

European countries have forgiven us a lot and give us the status of a candidate in advance due to geopolitical reasons.

I don't see any external obstacle to refusing Ukraine (candidacy). Unless there will be some incredible provocation on the part of the Ukrainian authorities.

– Can we lose this status or will it be given to us with some serious “buts”?

– Ukraine really receives the status of a candidate member of the EU with certain reservations. “But” suggests that we have certain unfinished homework that we had to do to obtain this status and did not complete or did not fully complete. In the decision of the European Commission, these points are painted on 32 pages. Believe me, there are far from 7 points replicated in the media. And we must fulfill all these recommendations not to obtain the status of a candidate, but to become a full-fledged member of the EU. Plus, we will hear more demands and recommendations for three thousand pages for the right to become a full-fledged EU member.

It is important to be aware that for the first time the EU grants a country the status of a candidate member of the EU with the possibility of depriving it. This has never happened before.

My prediction is that if the authorities do not demonstrate their readiness to actually carry out reforms within a year, Brussels will reset our status.

For example, Turkey received the status of an EU candidate in 1999. During this time, it managed to deploy its domestic policy in fact, in a diametrically opposite direction from European principles: certain democratic rights and institutions are being reduced. But the EU cannot take the candidate status away from Turkey.

There will be such an opportunity in Ukraine and Moldova. If we do not solve certain problems immediately after the war (some of them can still be solved now – the official appointment of the head of the SAPO, the holding of a fair competition for the director of NABU, the election of an ombudsman, etc.), then we risk losing the status of a candidate for EU membership. My prediction is that if within a year the authorities do not demonstrate their readiness to carry out real, and not fictitious, reforms, Brussels will reset our status.

You can be a candidate forever

– Is there a time frame for when a country should receive or be denied full EU membership?

– There is no clear time frame. Candidate status provides a direct path to EU membership if the country goes to it. Reforms are being dynamically carried out, recommendations are being implemented – it will soon get the status, it will be slow – the risk of remaining in the status of a candidate will hang for years, albeit forever. This is relative to the objective factor.

Consider the subjective side of the issue. We simulate the situation: Ukraine and Moldova fulfill the requirements for acquiring membership with the same speed and quality, but they do not fulfill something. As a result, Moldova is accepted into the EU, and we are told: “And you, Stirlitz, we will ask you to wait a bit.” A logical question arises: why so? Will explain. Moldova does not create problems for the EU, even if something goes wrong in the country, but Ukraine does.

The fulfillment of EU requirements by our country will be treated more carefully than the fulfillment of similar requirements by the same Moldova .

Ukraine is a country with a large population. And this, in turn, means that we will potentially have more of our own deputies in the European Parliament. In the EU, some decisions are made by qualified majority. And a country with a larger population has more influence on decision-making than just one vote.

Therefore, the fulfillment of our country's requirements in the EU will be more meticulously treated than the fulfillment of similar requirements by the same Moldova.

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– North Macedonia has been an EU candidate since 2005, Montenegro since 2008, Serbia and Albania since 2009. If we achieve candidate status in 2022, are we in line for these countries for EU membership, or can we get ahead of them?

– You don't have to stand in line. They will be accepted into the EU by studying and considering two things. The first is the state of fulfillment of all requirements for European integration. The second is a certain geographical approach in EU policy. Brussels has a big expansion plan to the Balkans and wants to complete it. In addition, objectively, Albania is fulfilling its status well, Montenegro seems to be reaching a normal level of performance … I think, if it were not for the war in Ukraine, then the issue of granting official membership to the Balkan countries would be resolved. Otherwise, we still have to wait a year.

They will get EU membership faster than us. Ukraine will not compete with them in terms of time. But of the further real and possible contenders, we are left alone with Moldova.

Wait for a serious revision of our legislation

European institutions will carry out a serious revision of our legislation and will announce their requirements. And 90% of the Ukrainians will like these demands, but the authorities will not.

– How will the average Ukrainian feel that the country has received EU candidate status?

– I would count more on tangible changes after 2023, when Ukrainians make their choice in the next parliamentary elections. But granting Ukraine the status of an EU candidate can create prerequisites for improving the lives of Ukrainians.

The country will receive a reform plan. European institutions will carry out a serious revision of our legislation and how it is implemented, and will voice their requirements and recommendations. And 90% of Ukrainians will like these demands, but the authorities will not, because this is the fight against corruption, de-oligarchization, the growth of social standards – things that politicians like to talk about and promise, but do not like to fulfill. In addition, there (in the list of requirements for Ukraine. – Author) there are many things that will not immediately catch your eye, but in the foreseeable future will play an important role in the development of the country: environmental, energy reforms.

Naturally, Brussels will not force Ukraine to do all these reforms. But they will hang over the country like a sword of Damocles, which in itself is also a certain positive.

Is the EU obliged to finance reforms in a country with candidate status?

– No, the EU is not obligated to do anything. But the EU has big financial programs for countries with this status. The country that is a candidate gets the opportunity to access these programs. And one more feature – these funds will not go to the government, but directly to local governments, for municipal programs. These are huge resources.

The EU has large financial programs for countries with this status. The country that is a candidate gets the opportunity (not the right!) to access these programs.

There is a lot of discussion about whether there will be a certain “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine. With our country obtaining the status of a candidate for EU membership, the likelihood of such a plan and its coverage is growing.

Visa-free – yes. But Schengen is not

– Can it happen that de facto Ukraine integrates into the EU faster than it receives de jure EU member status?

– We can get many provisions that will make us closer to the EU. But the EU has important institutional issues. Without the status of an EU member, our deputies will not be able to be members of the European Parliament. And this means that our vote will not be taken into account when there is a discussion about the further development and plans of the EU, we will not be able to influence decisions, the position of the EU.

When we become “ours” for the EU, then ours will be stronger fight.

Without formal EU membership, some EU forms will not apply to us. For example, the “Schengen” norm: there is a visa-free regime, but there is no Schengen, customs procedures will not be canceled for us.

– How will the future status of Ukraine affect the course of the war with Russia?

– There is no direct connection, only indirect. Now the European countries are helping us as much as they can, but they are not trying to do anything more.

When we become “ours” for the EU, they will fight harder for our own. The European Union will be interested in such a country experiencing less destruction, rebuilding as soon as possible, since then it will have to allocate more general money for post-war reconstruction. Therefore, the EU will now try to find an opportunity to help as much as possible: even more sanctions against Moscow.

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