Ukraine’s EU integration bid is continuing and the country could apply for membership in 2023, but the new administration has missed opportunities to push forward with NATO rapprochement, Ukraine’s former ambassador to the EU told Promote Ukraine, an NGO representing Ukrainian civil society in Brussels.
“Unhappily, the Ukrainian team dropped from its rhetoric the word combination NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP),” said Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, a career diplomat who had been the been deputy chief of the country’s presidential administration. “And this cannot but disturb us.”
The MAP is the defence club’s programme of assistance and support for those wishing to join. Current participants are Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, the latter due to join the alliance soon.
In October 2019, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for Euro-Atlantic integration, Dmytro Kuleba, said that an application for a MAP submitted in 2008, before the Euromaidan revolution, remains valid.
“Why submit a second application now if the first one remains valid?” Kuleba told UNIAN, a local media agency.
Yelisieiev also says that messaging needs to be clearer when it comes to Russia. “I do not criticize, I just advise to the new team to call a spade a spade. We have to make clear in our rhetoric, in our statements, who is the aggressor.”
In the former ambassador’s opinion, things look brighter on the EU side. “I think that if there is effective work and acceptable pace of internal reforms, then it is quite realistic to apply for EU membership in 2023,” opined Yelisieiev. “But this is on condition that we do not slow down the pace of integration.”
This timeline is similar to that of the current government, which plans to meet the accession criteria of both NATO and the EU in the next half-decade.
“In five years, we want to meet the accession criteria,” Kuleba told EURACTIV in November. “I want to visit Brussels and say: guys, we are ready. It’s your turn.”
Looking into the future, Yelisieiev said Ukraine and other non-EU members with aspirations to join the bloc should be invited to participate in a pan-European conference on the future of Europe, which should start in May and last for two years.
“I think this event might be successful if not only EU members but also other countries, neighbors, and Ukraine, in particular, are involved in the discussion.”
The suggestion to involve countries outside the EU in the exercise currently being prepared by the European Commission was also floated by Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán at a summit of the Visegrad Four in Prague in January 2019.
Referring to the United Kingdom’s imminent departure from the bloc, Yeliseiev said this could positively affect the relations between Brussels and Kyiv.
“There is even such a trend: let’s include Ukraine instead of the UK.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]