War in Ukraine spurs NATO and EU enlargement talks


The invasion of Ukraine has galvanized enlargement talks for both the European Union and NATO, as countries close to Russia seek security in numbers and to secure their ambitions for Europe. coming.

On Monday, Moldova and Georgia received questionnaires on EU membership, a step to start the long and complex process of joining the bloc, while Finland and Sweden launched debates on whether to join NATO.

The Finnish government has announced that it will present a white paper to its parliament on Wednesday to begin discussions on its security arrangements and NATO membership.

“Based on this debate, of course, the government will draw conclusions together with the President of the Republic,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters.

The Finnish and Swedish governments are coordinating closely, “and I hope that if we take similar decisions, we can take them around the same time,” he added.

Since the invasion, support for NATO membership has skyrocketed in Finland, which shares a long border with Russia and has been invaded by its neighbor in the past.

Support for NATO membership was 68%, down from 12% against, in a poll released Monday by Finnish broadcaster MTV.

Polls have also indicated growing support for NATO membership in Sweden, especially if Finland joins.

Only a month ago, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson rejected calls from the Swedish opposition to consider NATO membership. But on Monday, his Social Democratic party launched a review of its international security policy, saying the invasion of Ukraine had “fundamentally” changed Sweden’s security situation.

Warning

Russia has warned the two countries against joining the 30-member alliance. Both have attended NATO meetings as guests since the invasion.

Finland is expected to try to prepare its membership application for June, when NATO leaders meet for a summit in Madrid. A membership application should receive warm support. Formal membership requires a treaty change which is ratified by the 30 existing members, a process which in the past has taken about a year.

June could also be a key month for future EU enlargement, as national leaders are expected to consider whether to grant candidate status to Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia.

Ukraine is expected to have the highest priority as a potential new candidate state when EU leaders meet a week before the NATO summit. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy personally received the EU membership questionnaire from Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv on Friday.

The questionnaires are a way to collect information about the state of the country concerned, such as the strength of its legal system, to identify the reforms needed to align with the EU and if it is ready to become a candidate. official upon joining.

Based on the responses, the commission makes a recommendation to national governments, who then decide whether or not to grant candidate status.

The European Commission and candidate states aim to complete the questionnaire process in weeks, rather than the usual years.

Nevertheless, EU enlargement requires the agreement of all existing member states and many remain opposed to the admission of new countries, even if they are more willing to show solidarity in the current geopolitical situation.

“It’s a historic day for Moldova, for Georgia. Ukraine experienced this historic day a few days ago,” Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu told reporters as he arrived in Luxembourg to receive the questionnaire.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “causes everyone to reassess…its contribution to the history of our European continent”, Popescu said, describing what he felt was a new sense of “commitment” from national leaders and the public to “show more solidarity and mutual support”.

“We will make the most of this historic opportunity to bring Moldova closer to the European Union and the European Union.”

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