A grand prospect for Ukrainian citizens in migrating to any of the European Union (EU) nations and ultimately work and settlement is being opened with the sharp possibility of the EU granting membership to Ukraine soon. Meaning, Ukrainians who fled the country and took refuge in EU nations following Russian military attacks may no more suffer from any insecurity of being later sent back to their country. Instead, at least twenty million Ukrainians will be able to migrate to any of the European nations, once Kyiv gets membership and would be able to avail employment and business opportunities. It may be mentioned here that, Ukrainians would be given preference by most of the EU employers because they are generally hardworking.
On June 23, 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the immediate granting of candidate status for EU membership to Ukraine. On the same day, the European Council granted Ukraine the status of a candidate for accession to the EU. The European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement was signed in 2014 after a series of events that had stalled its ratification culminated in a revolution in Ukraine and overthrow of the then incumbent President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Ukraine came into force on September 1, 2017 after being provisionally applied since January 1, 2016, and the Association Agreement fully came into force on 1 September 2017. On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to the membership application.
Prior to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in March 2016 said that it would take at least 20-25 years for Ukraine to join the EU and NATO. But things took a dramatic turn as in June 2022, there were calls to start a formal accession process whereas Ukraine reiterated its desire to become a member of the union, and European Commission president Von der Leyen stated that Ukraine belongs to the European Union. Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger expressed support for an accelerated accession process.
Traditionally, Western Ukraine is found to be generally more enthusiastic about EU membership than Eastern Ukraine. In July 2012 and in May 2014, residents of West Ukraine (74 percent in July 2012 and 81 percent in May 2014), Central Ukraine (59 percent and 64 percent) and North Ukraine (56 percent and 71 percent) were the biggest supporters for EU membership.
Citizens aged between 20 and 39 appeared to be the strongest supporters of joining the EU in May 2010 and December 2011 (in December 2011 the opinion of the age group 18–29 did not vary from one region to another). In the May 2014 ComRes poll, people aged between 36 and 55 were the strongest supporters of joining the EU.
Ukraine’s EU ambassador, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, stated in July 2011 that business tycoons and politicians from Ukraine’s Russian speaking east were as much pro-EU as the Ukrainian speaking west of the country: “If any politician today in Ukraine declared himself to be against European integration, he would be politically dead”.
In January 2023 Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal set a tight two-year timetable for securing EU membership stating, “We have a very ambitious plan to join the European Union within the next two years. So we expect that this year, in 2023, we can already have this pre-entry stage of negotiations”.
The hot topic – and one of the central question marks over Ukraine’s EU accession – will be Ukraine’s struggle against corruption. The deputy infrastructure minister was fired and the deputy foreign minister stepped down this month over scandals related to war profiteering in public contracts.
“We need a reformed Ukraine”, said one senior EU official centrally involved in preparations for the summit. “We cannot have the same Ukraine as before the war”.
Shmyhal insisted that the Zelenskyy government is taking corruption seriously. “We have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption,” he said, pointing to the “lightning speed” with which officials were removed this month. “Unfortunately, corruption was not born yesterday, but we are certain that we will uproot corruption,” he said, openly saying that it’s key to the country’s EU accession path.
He also said the government was poised to revise its recent legislation on the country’s Constitutional Court to meet the demands of both the European Commission and the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe. Changes could come as early as this week, ahead of the summit, Shmyhal said.
Though Ukraine has announced a reform of the Constitutional Court, particularly on how judges are appointed, the Venice Commission still has concerns about the powers and composition of the advisory group of experts, the body which selects candidates for the court. The goal is to avoid political interference.
Shmyhal said these questions will be addressed. “We are holding consultations with the European Commission to see that all issued conclusions may be incorporated into the text”.
Ukrainians in the EU countries
Ukrainians, particularly those within the age range of 15-35 shall become a great asset to the European Union countries, as they are known for their hardworking nature. At the same time, Ukrainian entrepreneurs can establish diversified business establishments, especially focused on catering services to tourists, which would generate substantial revenue to the EU nations. Presence of Ukrainian service-oriented establishments in the tourism sector shall attract millions of affluent tourists from oil-rich Arab countries as well as Asian wealthy nations. Moreover, Ukraine’s accession to the EU shall particularly open the prospect of increased presence of Western enterprises in Ukraine alongside substantial increase in military establishments including that of NATO.
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