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Prince Edward Island

How long will it take Ukraine to join EU?

(Reuters) – More than a dozen senior European Union officials arrive in Kyiv on Thursday in a high-level show of support following fresh pledges of military aid as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches.

While the EU supports Ukraine and backs democratic and economic reforms there, Kyiv’s hopes of swiftly joining the EU-27 are likely to be dashed.

Here are the reasons – and details on EU accession:

* Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said he wants Ukraine to join the European Union in two years, and a liberal Belgian EU lawmaker teasingly said he dreams of that happening in the next five years. In reality, this will most likely take much longer.

The last country to join the EU was Croatia in 2013, a decade after formally applying. It took Ukrainian neighbor Poland 20 years to join in 2004.

Ukraine applied for accession shortly after the February 24, 2022 invasion and was granted formal candidate status by the EU last June, marking it as a bold geopolitical move.

* To be included, Ukraine must meet a wide range of criteria, from political stability, including democratic institutions that guarantee respect for the rule of law and human rights, to the economic ability to withstand increased competition.

Ukraine must translate its national law into extensive EU legal norms, including everything from climate to work to health.

While acknowledging the progress made so far, the bloc stresses that Ukraine needs to do more to build a credible track record in fighting endemic corruption.

In addition, the EU highlights reforms needed to ensure courts are free from political interference and the rights of minorities in Ukraine are respected.

* The accession criteria do not explicitly state that a country at war cannot become an EU member, but the bloc does not want to import territorial conflicts. However, it allowed Cyprus to join in 2004, although Nicosia has not controlled the entire island since Turkey’s 1974 invasion.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen its own EU membership negotiations fall apart in recent years as President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on critics after an attempted coup in 2016 undermined democracy there and weakened ties with the bloc has.

Negotiations began in 2005 after decades of Turkey trying to formally begin an EU membership application, dovetailed with Erdogan’s first economic reforms in the prime minister’s office from 2003, which made Ankara a key emerging market economy and trading partner.

* All EU countries must agree to host a new partner. Aside from meeting the complex criteria, Ukraine would also have to overcome resistance from several founding states, including France and the Netherlands, to expand the bloc further east.

EU enlargement talks have stalled since 2018 as current members failed to agree on whether to include other official candidates Albania, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia.

The bloc is also divided on granting formal candidate status to fellow hopefuls Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Georgia.

With a population of around 44 million, Ukraine would be the fifth largest EU country after Germany, France, Italy and Spain, which would give it great influence over the bloc’s decisions.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Grant McCool)

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