Yesterday the EU’s Foreign Ministers released a statement affirming that the political association and the free trade treaty they are currently offering the Ukraine is not “the final-goal in EU-Ukraine co-operation.” Experts are reading this as a suggestion that the EU might one day consider letting Ukraine in, and the Polish Foreign Minister who pushed for this statement is publicly boosting this interpretation. The EU Observer reports on Poland’s view of the situation:
Referring to article 49 of the EU treaty, which says any “European state” can join if it meets criteria, [Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski] told media: “We have opened the door and given the hope to the Ukrainian nation that, if Ukraine embarks on the course of reform, then it has the chance to take full advantage of European integration and treaty provisions.”He described the EU ministers’ debate as “emotional … lively,” adding: “It’s more than many were ready to accept even this morning, so I consider it an achievement.”He noted the EU is making a special effort on Ukraine, because Poland itself did not have any “enlargement perspective” when it signed its EU association pact in 1993, 11 years before it joined.
This is definitely a sign that the EU is getting a bit warmer towards closer cooperation with Ukraine, but Brussels is still Brussels: a slow-moving amoeba of an organization. Despite the Polish minister’s optimism, it’s not likely that the EU will seriously discuss letting Ukraine join anytime soon. That’s not only because of bureaucracy; it’s also because there’s little consensus about bringing Ukraine—a poorer, bigger “Poland”—into a collective whose members are already pushing back hard when it comes to open immigration. The EU may be casting some stronger hints in Ukraine’s direction, but it’s not ready to bring it into the fold.