Working Together to Reform: the EU and Ukraine Paths

November 3, 2023
Ukraine is steadily reforming its policies in order to meet democratic and liberal standards.

However, it is not only up to Ukraine to achieve operational institutional equilibrium. So, how are Ukraine and the EU dealing with capacity changes now?

  • UkraineWorld spoke with Dmytro Naumenko, co-founder, and senior analyst at the Ukrainian Centre for European Policy.

Key points in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis:

What reforms should be implemented within the EU before Ukraine is admitted?

The Group of 12 proposal has made the most noise because it is the first attempt to present an approach for deep EU reform. There had previously only been general statements on this issue.

Macron, for example, had previously made remarks about ensuring the European Union's strategic autonomy. Moreover, he sees the EU’s expansion possible only after it has reformed. But this may take some time because it involves amending the EU's founding treaties and achieving a shared vision among all members.

The following aspects of the Franco-German project are a good example. First and foremost, it is about reforming the protection of the fundamental principle of the rule of law. The current situation, in which there are EU members who do not respect the founding principles, such as Hungary, is regarded as the greatest threat to the European Union's existence.

That is why options for amending Article 7 of the TEU to increase the cost of non-compliance with the principles are being considered, particularly through budget allocation and sanctions.

Based on this, we are expecting tougher requirements for Ukraine.

How has the prospect of future enlargement changed the perceptions of norms?

The reforms are primarily focused on the EU's institutional capacity to respond, as we can already see that governing 27 countries is difficult.

Therefore, alternatives to distributing mandates in the European Parliament, moving from unanimity to a qualified majority voting system in the European Council in decisions such as the next EU enlargements, and reducing or reforming the College of Commissioners in the European Commission are being considered.

Given the experience of the Balkan states, where one country blocks the integration of another due to personal attitudes, the EU has discovered that maintaining unanimity with so many participants is difficult.

Ukraine is a large country that influences the distribution of votes, the distribution of funds, and the shifting of priorities, and it is currently at war. Furthermore, the Franco-German proposal states that a country with a war on its territory cannot join the EU. This would mean a direct involvement in the conflict, which the EU does not want to be partner to.

Therefore, the best position is to begin accession negotiations while also reforming the EU.

Moreover, some EU countries are both net contributors and net recipients of the EU budget. Portugal is currently one of the primary beneficiaries and so, in this regard, Portugal would see Ukraine's accession as unprofitable.

What will happen next?

Ukraine has a bloc of supporters at the EU level, including Lithuania, who say that the accession process should be launched under accelerated procedure. However, France and Germany opposed this move.

We have been assessing the process of European integration according to 540 EU acts since the signing of the Association Agreement, and in order to join, we will need to ensure this activity for 3000 EU acts. So, Ukraine has a lot of work to do. The EU summit in December should reveal which option the EU will pursue for the next wave of enlargement.

According to Charles Michel, both the reform and enlargement processes should be completed by 2030.

Daria Synhaievska, Analyst at UkraineWorld

Dmytro Naumenko, co-founder, and senior analyst at the Ukrainian Centre for European Policy