President Zelensky of Ukraine urged the European Union today to grant his country immediate accession to the EU bloc.

  • Would joining the EU bloc rapidly allow the European Union members to help more efficiently Ukraine during wartime?
  • or thwart Russia's plans in any way?

edit -- excerpts from the NYT

Zelensky: "We appeal to the European Union for Ukraine’s immediate accession under a new special procedure. Our goal is to stand alongside all Europeans and, most importantly, to stand on their level"

The European Union wants Ukraine to join the bloc “over time,” Ms. von der Leyen said in an interview with Euronews on Saturday, although she gave no indication of timing.

Ukraine took a first step to joining the European Union in early 2014, but progress toward accession has been slow. Kyiv’s turn toward the European Union and the West has angered President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and has helped fuel a conflict involving Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine

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    Do you have a non-paywalled source for Zelensky's request to join the EU?
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:16
  • 3
    Or simply cite the relevant parts. It should be possible as Fair Use. Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:17
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    "allow" might be the wrong word, more like "oblige" Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:18
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    What is preventing EU members for efficiently helping right now? The only difference I see is a mandated requirement to help defend members.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:20
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    @Philipp It's been reported by the BBC.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:26

3 Answers 3


The simple fact is that it is not feasible. Even if everybody agreed in principle, the EU was ready to waive some of the requirements and ignore all other political considerations, it would still take years of technical work to actually integrate with the EU. Without that, Ukraine would not effectively function as part of the EU.

Consequently, the entire point of the speech is symbolic: expressing an aspiration, forcing a discussion, getting the EU to take a stance and promise a speedy process, messaging to the people of Ukraine or to Russia, having something to give up in future negotiations, etc. What membership entails or what could actually happen after it's done isn't the main point right now.

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    Yes, it basically is just another way of saying that Ukraine doesn't want to be part of Russia. Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:28
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    Also why not strike while the iron is hot and international support is at an all-time high. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 0:05
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    As another form of symbolism, it opens the possibility to a future concession in negotiations with Russia: Ukraine could offer to withdraw this application. Which would just be another symbolic gesture, but symbolic gestures are often part of diplomatic negotiations. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 5:00
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    @mkinson It's doubtful eurozone membership would immediately follow, that comes with additional requirements and several EU member states are still waiting while some are also deliberately staying out. It's not clear it would really be an advantage for Ukraine (witness e.g. Greece).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 22:54
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    There is an important aspect no one is mentioning. There are a lot of "Russian" Ukranians (who Putin was counting on to support him - but somehow didn't) who might feel attracted to be either Russian or Ukranian - note that Russia has a double per-capita GDP than the Ukranine. However the prospect of being EU Ukranian promises a much more attractive standard of living, the ability to move to move freely in Europe etc. And there is a good chance any eventual peace settlements are going to include referendums that makes this fact even more relevant. Not an RU vs. UA future, but RU vs. EU.
    – Mike Wise
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 11:35

Zelensky does not actually expect that Ukraine will be able to join the EU right now. However, even starting the application process now brings benefits, even more given the expected response by the European Parliament tomorrow.

  1. The application reinforces that Ukraine is a fellow European country. Thus supporting Ukraine is an act of helping one of our own, not just an act of kindness to a stranger. Most European governments have already gone farther than most would have expected a week ago, and Zelensky's masterful public communication strategy probably played a big part in that.

  2. Putin's goal is said to be installing a puppet regime in Kyev. The further Ukraine is towards EU membership, the more impossible it becomes for any EU member to recognize such a puppet government; and presumably any such progress will also further delegitimize a potential collaboration government for the Ukrainians (but the bitter resistance they are putting up probably takes care of that already).

  3. Planning for the future is a sign of confidence that you'll have a future. EU support and a fast-track for membership will be very beneficial when it comes to rebuilding Ukraine if and when they've beaten off the invasion. Fighting for a better tomorrow rather than just against a worse tomorrow helps with morale.

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    "even more given the expected response by the European Parliament tomorrow" - what is the expected response?
    – sezmeralda
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 3:29
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    The response from the Parliament (or the Commission, which did take a position yesterday I think) doesn't matter that much, their role is very limited in this particular process. As I wrote, I do think that getting the EU to take a stance (to prepare a future accession process) is part of it but that's still entirely symbolic and doesn't amount to an actual candidacy or meaningfully move Ukraine towards it. EU accession requires very deep legal changes and technical negotiations that cannot practically happen right now.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 10:23
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    By contrast, Turkey, with very little political will to actually join (and, to my mind, zero chances for the foreseeable future) is already much further on a technical level.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 10:24
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    @sezmeralda independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/…
    – Arno
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 22:32

It would not, in any way, help the EU to help more efficiently. Anything the EU wants to do, it can do now. It doesn't want to go to war with Russia to safeguard Ukraine. Membership would bring:

  • A defense promise by some (but not all) NATO members, including one nuclear power, as well as several non-NATO powers.
  • A more credible promise that 'the West' won't sell them out in a peace deal with Russia.
  • Clarity on the legal status of refugees who may come to the EU, including a right to enter the labor market.
  • Significant economic advantages once it becomes time for rebuilding.
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    Is it fair to mention NATO here? I'm genuinely curious. Yes, I do understand NATO membership was (one of) the catalyst for the majority of the crisis, but this request did not (seem to) even mention NATO.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:53
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    @CGCampbell, there is a significant overlap in EU and NATO membership. The EU has a mutual defense clause, but no army beyond the national armies of the members. Many of whom are pledged to NATO headquarters.
    – o.m.
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 17:05
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    @CGCampbell: The EU common defense article specifically mentions NATO. As an EU member, Ukraine would benefit from that article. I.e. if Russia attacks Ukraine, it's considered an attack on all EU members including e.g. Denmark. And an attack on Denmark is considered as an attack on all NATO members. How that would work in practice is of course fuzzy, but that is hardly a downside for a deterrent.
    – MSalters
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 11:03
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    @MSalters if Russia attacks Ukraine, it's considered an attack on all EU members by EU members . Whether UK or US would consider an attack on Ukraine an attack on Denmark is an entirely different question. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 16:18
  • Here's an article about some reservations from European NATO members, which while not specified very likely includes EU members miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/article258774458.html
    – qwr
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 8:06

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