Ukraine: EU Remains Leery of ‘Symbolic’ Offer of Candidate Status

Yet, despite overwhelming support for Ukraine in its fight for survival against Russian aggression, many of the 27 member states are leery of diminishing the accession process just to make a symbolic gesture to a country in need.

The process of joining the EU broadly consists of three stages: when a country is ready it becomes an official candidate for membership, though this does not necessarily mean formal negotiations have been opened; the candidate moves on to formal membership negotiations, a process that requires adopting and implementing the entire body of EU law and regulations; and finally, when the negotiations and accompanying reforms have been completed to the satisfaction of both sides, the EU member states ratify membership.

The length of time this process takes has varied. The last country to join, Croatia, applied for membership in 2003 and joined a decade later, in 2013.

Foreign Ministers of Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and North Macedonia, and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell pose for a group photo at the end of a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 16 May 2022. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ 'Enlargement fatigue' creates long queue

Much of the reason for Croatia's extended accession process is what has been termed "enlargement fatigue" among many member states. This is now holding up the progress of the five current candidate countries - Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey - and is expected to impact on Ukraine's bid as well.

"The enlargement policy of the EU today in the [Western Balkans] region is seriously kaput," Nikola Dimitrov, a former North Macedonian politician and current non-resident fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences,...

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