The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, hopes that the EU member states will start formal accession talks with Ukraine as early as December. In an interview with The Guardian, she noted that the EU should prepare for Ukraine's arrival as a member state.
More than a year has passed since Ukraine applied for EU membership, and many expect it to be a four- to five-year journey. But Metsola reflects a fresh view among some EU leaders that the bloc needs to speed up acceptance for Ukraine and the Balkan states that have also applied to reduce the risk of Russian interference in those territories.
Metsola wants formal negotiations to begin before Christmas. The decision rests with EU ministers, who will formally meet in December after a public report in October on Ukraine's progress in reforming its judiciary, curbing corruption and opening markets.
"I expect a concrete result, because the worst signal could be that we have set these people goals and deadlines that we ourselves cannot fulfill," she said.
The President of the European Parliament explained that the current economic model of the EU is not designed for a larger number of members, say, 32-22, so changes are needed. Metsola also noted that candidate countries do not have to wait for official acceptance to access certain processes, such as free mobile phone roaming in the EU. She noted that mobile operators are already ready for this.
Trade barriers for business could also be removed.
"The pre-accession period also means access to funds, access to universities, access for students, the ability to enter the internal market, regardless of whether we apply import or export tariffs. We have been saying for years that Ukraine cannot be connected to the European power grid. It took us days to realise this when the war started. In the end, it was always about political will," said Metsola.
According to Bloomberg, the European Commission is preparing to recommend the start of substantive negotiations on Ukraine's membership in the EU. The accession process is expected to be “years-long". The European Commission may also insist on progress in some priority areas, including corruption. These will be the so-called intermediate steps. After the Commission makes its recommendation, EU leaders will have to sign it, most likely at a summit in December. After that, Ukraine will begin a lengthy process of completing reforms and bringing the country in line with EU legislation in more than 30 areas, including the rule of law and the economy.
This month, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine needs to bring another 5,000 legislative acts into line with EU recommendations. This, he said, is the penultimate step toward accession.