Ukraine will not be fast-tracked into EU - Austrian Minister
Austria's EU Affairs Minister says Ukraine's accession to the European Union will take more than a decade.
Despite the EU Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen's insistence that Ukraine will be fast-tracked into the European Union, Austria's EU Affairs Minister Karoline Edtstadler has predicted that the process will take more than a decade.
Giving the Ukrainian President a questionnaire that forms a starting point for the membership decision, von der Leyen said, "It will not, as usual, be a matter of years to form this opinion but I think a matter of weeks." Zelensky has stated he would provide the response within a week.
However, Edtstadler said that Ukraine will not join the EU bloc within the next decade.
It would be "a long process to adjust to, which certainly cannot be achieved in the next five to ten years," Edtstadler told Austria’s APA news agency on Wednesday. She also added that some Balkan states have been waiting "for decades" to join the union, meaning there could be no fast track for Kiev.
Before Edtstadler, Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Ukraine should instead pursue an association agreement with the EU, or try for integration into the European Economic Area.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed disappointment with the Austrian Foreign Minister's comments, calling them "strategically short-sighted and not in the interests of a united Europe. Such statements also ignore the fact that the majority of the population of the EU founding countries supports Ukraine's membership."
The statement further pointed out that Ukraine is "protecting Europe", and so has the right to demand recognition. "Thanks to the indestructible will and courage of the president of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, Europe today can live in peace. Without exaggeration, our state has become an outpost of protection of EU security, European freedom, and European values," the spokesperson added.
The EU Commission evaluates everything when assessing a country's bid for membership, from economic performance to the legal system, as well as environmental and agricultural practices, which can take decades. Turkey for example has been a candidate country since 1999.
Germany and the Netherlands have both said that expediting Ukraine's membership is not something that can be fast-tracked.