The European Commission has started assessing Ukrainian legislation for compliance with EU laws, which "lays the groundwork for the (membership) negotiations," President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Jan. 25.
The screening is the first step toward Ukraine's accession talks with the EU. To be allowed to join the union, a country must harmonize its legislation with that of the EU and adopt all acquis communautaire, or legal acts and decrees that constitute the European Union law.
The so-called acquis are divided into 35 chapters. Each of them must be fully adopted and closed by the commission. Croatia, the latest country to join the EU, was able to complete the process within 10 years.
"The thorough work of assessing the conformity of Ukrainian legislation with EU norms, the formation of Ukraine's delegation, and our negotiating position are all ahead of us," Zelensky said on X (formerly Twitter).
"I expect full engagement of Ukrainian government team and the first intergovernmental conference to be held already this spring."
The Ukrainian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna met with EU officials in Brussels on Jan. 25 to start the screening process.
The parties agreed on a structure and a schedule for the screening talks, which will begin with consideration of fundamental rights and reforms, Stefanishyna told reporters after the meeting, as cited by Ukrinform.
"On the first block, negotiations may last a month or two. We will wait for the decision of the March meeting of the European Council. It should give impetus to the further negotiation process," said Stefanishyna.
"We hope that Ukraine's implementation of the four recommendations (emphasized by the European Commission - ed.) will speed up the adoption of the negotiating framework for the first round of negotiations."
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Jan. 19 that Ukraine had fulfilled three of the four additional recommendations presented by the European Commission in November 2023. They include an increase in staff of the NABU, one of the country's chief anti-corruption agencies, reopening the assets declaration registry, and implementing changes to national minorities law.
The fourth point, a bill on lobbying, has been approved by the parliament in the first reading.
The European Council agreed to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova on Dec. 14. The announcement delivered a significant political victory for Ukraine amid worries that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would block the start of the negotiations.