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Eugene Czolij: EU must grant Ukraine EU membership now

March 10, 2022 3:13 pmby Eugene Czolij
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People take to the street to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine eleven days ago, in Brussels on March 6, 2022. (Dylan Carter)

The Treaty on European Union, also known as the Maastricht Treaty, establishes how a country can become a member state of the European Union.

The relevant provisions of this treaty regarding membership stipulate that:

“Article 2

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

Article 49

Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application. The applicant State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component members. The conditions of eligibility agreed upon by the European Council shall be taken into account.

The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.”

A proverb, universally known and acknowledged, says: “Actions speak louder than words.”

The incredibly courageous actions of the Ukrainian people in the last decade alone, and their indescribable suffering over the last two weeks, demonstrate beyond any doubt that they not only fully respect the values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and are committed to promoting them – but they even consider such values to be worth dying for.

The Euromaidan protests against Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to repudiate Ukraine's Eurointegration process during the famous Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014 and the vicious Russian military aggression that Ukrainians have confronted since then, at a tremendous human cost, have not only earned them the admiration of the international community, but also well-deserved membership in the European Union.

On Feb. 7, 2019, the Parliament of Ukraine voted to amend the Constitution of Ukraine in order for it to reflect the European identity of the Ukrainian people and their strategic course towards Ukraine’s full membership in the European Union and NATO.

Perhaps the most impactful events of the 21st century have been related to Ukraine's civilizational choice towards membership in the Euro-Atlantic structures, and Russia’s desperate attempts to block it. 

This cannot come as a surprise, for Ukraine's European past and future are a complete dichotomy to Putin’s false historical narrative that brazenly attempts to propagate the myth that Russians and Ukrainians were one people and that Eastern Europe belongs in Russia’s sphere of influence.

Ukrainians have already made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their European dreams, principles and aspirations and shown that they belong in the European Union.

On Feb. 24, 2022 Russia launched “the biggest war in Europe since 1945” and is perpetrating countless war crimes in Ukraine, jolting the international community into a new reality filled with daunting challenges.

To successfully face this new reality the EU leadership will require clear vision, as well as the courage to acknowledge in a timely manner that Ukraine has unequivocally demonstrated that it embodies the values of the Treaty on European Union and fasttrack Ukraine’s full membership in the European Union.

Rather than buckling under the relentless Russian military aggression, on Feb. 28, 2022, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy formally submitted an application for Ukraine’s EU membership.

The European Parliament resolution of March 1, 2022 on the Russian aggression against Ukraine calling “for the EU institutions to work towards granting EU candidate status to Ukraine, in line with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union and on the basis of merit, and, in the meantime, to continue to work towards its integration into the EU single market along the lines of the Association Agreement” is a positive step in that direction.

On the same day, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Euronews that Ukraine is “one of us and we want them in the European Union.

The meeting of the members of the European Council on March 10-11, 2022 in Versailles provides the EU leadership with a good opportunity to take the necessary steps to accelerate Ukraine’s full membership in the European Union.

It is clearly in the best interests of both the EU and Ukraine that such steps be taken now.

Eugene Czolij
Author:  Eugene Czolij

Eugene Czolij is president of the Ukraine-2050 nongovernmental organization and served as president of the Ukrainian World Congress from 2008-2018. Ukraine-2050 was established to help implement within one generation – by 2050 – strategies for the sustainable development of Ukraine as a fully independent, territorially integral, democratic, reformed and economically competitive European state.