Opportunity window to invite Ukraine to EU is quite small – Lithuanian vice-minister

  • 2023-12-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The window of opportunity for inviting Ukraine to the European Union is quite small, so the bloc's leaders should make use of it, Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Jovita Neliupsiene said on Friday. 

"I think that member states' leaders who will gather for the European Council (summit) realize that the window of opportunity is quite small and quite short – either we now make a geopolitical decision and a political decision that will allow the European Union to move forward in the future, or we just close ourselves off and wait for something," she during a meeting with journalists at the Polish embassy in Vilnius.

At the summit in Brussels in mid-December, EU leaders are expected to announce whether the bloc will open accession talks with Ukraine, which was granted candidate status in June.

The European Commission said in November that Kyiv had met well over 90 percent of the conditions to start formal membership talks.

The EU's executive body recommended opening accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova.

Neliupsiene emphasized that the EU has to make a political decision.

"All this is not about technical decisions; these are matters of political will. And I think we need to make them now. The longer we delay, the more obstacles we will find," the vice-minister said.

"I believe that the leaders are ready to make this decision," she added. 

Neliupsiene said that the EU is currently discussing a wave of enlargement.

"Talks are currently underway on the Council's conclusions as to how to treat the European Commission's report on enlargement," the vice-minister said.

"There are countries that believe that both the trio (Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova) and the Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia) should move at the same speed," she said. "We believe that everyone should move based on their merits." 

Konstanty Radziwill, Poland's ambassador to Lithuania, told journalists that Warsaw shares Vilnius' position that greater EU enlargement does not require amending the treaty, but that it is necessary to review the bloc's policies in various areas.

"As far as the EU treaty is concerned, we do not really see the need for any changes because of enlargement," Radziwill said. "I think that Lithuania and Poland have a similar position that shifting the weight of the decision from the European Council to the European Parliament is not the best solution."  

"Also, the way of voting -–whether by qualified majority or simple majority – is not good for Lithuania, Poland or other countries. We are against these changes," the ambassador said.

"We are even more opposed to these changes as a condition for enlargement. We believe that candidate countries, including Ukraine, have to do their homework, but the EU has to do its homework too. First of all, without shifting the entire weight of enlargement onto neighboring countries," he said. 

Admitting a large country like Ukraine to the EU requires decisions from Brussels on new agricultural, transport, industrial and energy policies, according to Radziwill.

The ambassador said that resolving these issues of concern would also strengthen support from some EU countries for Ukraine's membership.

"These fears and doubts usually have no ideological basis; usually this is just economic pragmatism," he said. "If the EU sorts things out in this area, then support and approval for Ukraine's accession and integration will certainly increase."

Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova applied for EU membership after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Allowing Ukraine, a war-torn country of over 40 million people, into the EU would mean not only a significant change but also huge costs for the bloc. Some countries that are currently net recipients of EU funds would become net contributors.

Some EU member states link this wave of enlargement to the need to reform the bloc's governance.