The coming days will be decisive for Ukraine’s path to the EU. Does the EU Commission recommend making the country an EU candidate? Von der Leyen doesn’t let his cards be looked at.

During a visit to Kyiv, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that she would complete the analysis of Ukraine’s EU membership application by the end of next week.

On Saturday, during talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the top German politician praised the country’s well-functioning administration. At the same time, she called for further reforms. Basically, she acknowledged the “enormous efforts and determination” of Ukraine on the way to the EU.

EU membership of huge importance for Ukraine

Ukraine applied to join the EU shortly after the Russian war of aggression began. The EU states then instructed the EU Commission to make a recommendation as to whether the country should be given the status of a candidate country.

For Ukraine, the path to the EU is of crucial importance, as Zelenskyy reiterated on Saturday. “The Ukrainian people have already made a huge contribution in defending common freedom and common values,” he said. “A positive response from the European Union to Ukraine’s application for EU membership can be a positive answer to the question of whether there is any future for the European project at all.” Zelenskyy emphasized that Ukrainians are aware that candidate status is only the beginning of the European path.

Von der Leyen leaves the decision open

In Kyiv, von der Leyen praised the country’s parliamentary-presidential democracy and the well-functioning administration, while at the same time calling for reforms, for example in the fight against corruption. She left it open which recommendation her authority will make. It is possible that she is in favor of unrestricted candidate status. However, the status of a potential accession candidate would also be conceivable. In any case, the recommendation is likely to be linked to reforms. The EU countries must then unanimously decide how to proceed. This is to happen at an EU summit on June 23rd and 24th.

The challenge will be to emerge from the EU summit with a unified position “that reflects the scope of these historic decisions,” von der Leyen told journalists on the return trip to Poland. “I hope that in 20 years, when we look back, we can say that we did the right thing.”

Member States at odds on how to deal with Ukraine

So far, however, the views of the EU states have differed widely, although the decision on candidate status does not anticipate the admission decision and is not linked to a time frame. Turkey has been an EU accession candidate since 1999.

States such as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, as well as Italy and Ireland, are campaigning for Ukraine to become an EU candidate as quickly as possible. The Netherlands and Denmark, for example, are skeptical.

Scholz avoids a clear position

How the federal government will position itself is unclear. While Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is in favor of candidate status, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has not yet made a clear statement. He merely emphasized that he would not accept any special rules for accelerated EU accession. He also pointed out that this was not fair to the six countries in the Western Balkans, which also hope to join the EU.