What would actually happen if Ukraine joined the EU?
    Analysis by Euronews

    WORLD  22 March 2023 - 09:01

    In his article for Euronews, Joshua Askew ponders on what would happen if Ukraine becomes the EU's fifth-biggest member. Caliber.Az reprints the article.

    By any stretch of the imagination, Ukraine probably isn't joining the EU any time soon.

    Plagued by deep structural issues – not to mention Russia’s grinding invasion – it could take many years for the country to get ready – no matter where its heart lies.

    Still, Ukrainian accession is a hot topic, with debates raging among analysts and policymakers about what it would mean in practice if the embattled nation entered the fold.

    ‘The centre of gravity would shift to the east’

    Home to some 40 million people, Ukraine would become the union’s fifth-biggest member and largest by land mass, if it joined.

    This would raise significant geopolitical implications, paving the way for a new Warsaw-Kyiv axis that could rival the traditional Paris-Berlin one, according to Professor Michael Keating at Aberdeen University in Scotland.

    With the “old Franco-German motor not what it used to be… we could certainly see a large shift in the balance of power within the EU,” he told Euronews, though Ukraine itself would not be “very powerful”.

    Enlargement could further strain the unity and cohesion of the 27-member state club.

    “The bigger the European Union gets, the more difficult it becomes to make decisions and engage in collective action,” said Keating.

    Already there are major tussles within the EU between western and southern states, eastern and northern, over the nature of the bloc and its objectives.

    Relatively new members Hungary and Poland – who both joined in 2004 – have been a particular thorn in the side of Brussels, which has sanctioned them for undermining the rule of law and democracy.

    Money also matters.

    Even before the war ground its economy to dust, Ukraine was one of the poorest countries in Europe.

    It had a GDP per capita of $4,800 (€4451) in 2021 – more than ten times less than advanced European economies such as the UK, France and Germany.

    According to Jolyon Howorth, a professor of European politics, integrating such a battered and bruised country would cost a “horrendous amount”.

    It could invariably strain EU finances, possibly diverting funds away from poorer member states, such as Poland, Greece, Hungary and Romania, all net beneficiaries in 2022.

    Yet this has happened before.

    Despite “a bit of grumbling” from those who lost out, Keating says EU funding has historically changed, shifting east and southwards as the EU enlarged in 2004 and 2007.

    “That's part of the normal process of adjustment,” he told Euronews. “They’re losing funding because they're developing. That's not much of a problem.”

    “It's a bit difficult to complain about getting richer.”

    ‘Polish plumber tropes’

    In the long run, Ukraine could stand to reap economic gains, especially through attracting foreign investment, if admitted into the EU – the richest trading bloc on the planet.

    Plus the need to meet EU eligibility criteria may incentivise the country to tackle deep-seated structural issues, such as corruption, an endemic evil in Ukraine.

    But Keating issued a warning.

    Across many states, EU membership has increased regional disparities, he suggested.

    Those living in the area around the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, for example, have a GDP per capita nearly three times higher than in the country's poorest region.

    This is possible in Ukraine, according to Keating. With investment concentrated around Kyiv, he said regions in the east - where "political tensions are the highest" - could grow even more “economically marginalised”.

    “That could be a problem,” he said. “Policies [would need to be] in place to make sure there wasn't too much division in the country when it came to economics and wealth.”

    In the more immediate term, Howorth says it is “almost inevitable” there would be migratory flows out of Ukraine.

    Any mass influx of Ukrainian workers runs the risk of creating a possible political backlash in existing member states – irrespective of their economic contribution.

    Experiencing a boom at the time, the UK was one of the only major economies not to limit the number of eastern European workers, with immigration later becoming a hugely contentious issue within the Brexit vote.

    This is despite the positive economic impact of European immigrants on the country.

    But Keating claimed: “That’s already happened. Poland was filled with Ukrainians, even before the war.”

    “Labour markets in western countries need these workers,” he continued, though recognised “economics and politics don't always align”.

    ‘What are the limits of Europe?’

    Writing in the New Statesman, a British political magazine, essayist Jeremy Cliffe claimed leaving Ukraine out in the cold would be a dangerous thing, possibly inviting new conflicts.

    “Imagine a Ukraine worn down structurally and industrially by years of war; it's economy sclerotic and investment sparse; a slow-motion failed state; its voters and leaders resentful of an EU that failed to stand by its promises.”

    “Compared with this scenario, the challenges of rapid EU enlargement do not look quite so insurmountable,” he added.

    Russia's invasion has turbo-charged support for EU membership amongst Ukrainians.

    Ninety-two per cent want to join the club by 2030, according to a poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. Before the conflict, only 67% said they would vote yes in a membership referendum.

    Debates around Ukraine’s EU membership ultimately raise profound existential questions about the bloc itself.

    “Enlargements constantly call into question the reason why we're doing it,” said Howorth. “What is the purpose of further expansion? Are we doing it for its own sake? Can you keep on enlarging more or less indefinitely?”

    "If you take that logic that the European Union can just keep extending itself, ever further forward, then it rapidly gets out of hand."

    Again he pointed to “ unresolved divisions” among member states about what the union really is, saying it was journeying to the unknown, without a clear purpose.

    “We’ve never defined our destination. We've simply said that's where we're heading. And I think with the potential membership of Ukraine, we need to have a much clearer answer to that question: What’s the point of all this?”


    Subscribe to our Telegram channel

Read also

Minister: Ukraine to receive algorithm for joining NATO at Vilnius summit

10 June 2023 - 11:08

Two planes collide on Tokyo runway

10 June 2023 - 10:56

General Staff: Ukrainian forces hit 25 clusters of Russian manpower

10 June 2023 - 11:57

ISW experts: Ukraine conducts counteroffensive in four directions

10 June 2023 - 10:44

US announces purchases for strategic petroleum reserve

10 June 2023 - 11:33

Iceland to suspend embassy operations in Moscow from August 1

09 June 2023 - 20:31
Latest news

    General Staff: Ukrainian forces hit 25 clusters of Russian manpower

    10 June 2023 - 11:57

    Azerbaijan holds command-staff exercises in liberated territories


    10 June 2023 - 11:45

    US announces purchases for strategic petroleum reserve

    10 June 2023 - 11:33

    Anti-government protests continue in Southeastern Iran

    10 June 2023 - 11:20

    Minister: Ukraine to receive algorithm for joining NATO at Vilnius summit

    10 June 2023 - 11:08

    Two planes collide on Tokyo runway

    10 June 2023 - 10:56

    ISW experts: Ukraine conducts counteroffensive in four directions

    10 June 2023 - 10:44

    Turkish FM, EC Vice-President discuss EU-Türkiye relations

    10 June 2023 - 10:32

    S&P: Prospects for Azerbaijan's gas sector favorable

    10 June 2023 - 10:21

    Armenia shells Azerbaijani positions

    MoD statement

    10 June 2023 - 10:15

    SOCAR sends 20 tons of fuel to war-torn Ukraine

    10 June 2023 - 10:10

    Iran's Mahan Air launches flights to St Petersburg

    10 June 2023 - 09:59

    Azerbaijan, North Macedonia discuss normalisation of Azerbaijani-Armenian ties

    10 June 2023 - 09:51

    Armenia extends arrest of captured Azerbaijani serviceman

    10 June 2023 - 09:43

    Three Azerbaijani veteran judokas become European champions

    10 June 2023 - 09:35

    Ecology official: Armenia not fulfilling its international obligations

    10 June 2023 - 09:28

    Hikmet Hajiyev: Free Lachin enters new stage of revival due to policy of President Aliyev

    10 June 2023 - 09:21

    Azerbaijan refutes firing at Armenian positions

    10 June 2023 - 09:14

    The true purpose of Ukraine’s counteroffensive

    Analysis by The Atlantic

    10 June 2023 - 09:01

    As Russia’s armed forces fight among themselves, it’s hard to know who’s in control

    Opinion by The Guardian

    10 June 2023 - 08:00

    Iran: Inefficient management resulting in environmental and historical disasters

    Analysis by Pooya Stone

    10 June 2023 - 07:04

    Türkiye's Erdogan picks Wall Street exec to head central bank

    10 June 2023 - 06:03

    Foreign Affairs: How Putin’s war became Russia’s war

    10 June 2023 - 05:02

    Leonardo DRS to supply US Army snipers with Advanced Infrared Weapon Sights

    10 June 2023 - 04:01

    Tokyo could win "not China’" global hub status — but it must want it

    Opinion by Financial Times

    10 June 2023 - 03:59

    The Economist: Iraqi militias copying their overmighty cousins in Iran

    10 June 2023 - 03:00

    Julian Assange "dangerously close" to US extradition after losing latest legal appeal

    10 June 2023 - 02:05

    Europe’s technocracy is killing its global dreams

    Opinion by Al Jazeera

    10 June 2023 - 01:04

    China set to become world’s largest green hydrogen importer by 2030

    10 June 2023 - 00:03

    Ukraine develops its own long-range missile

    09 June 2023 - 23:00

    Politico: Polish government bets big on anti-Russia law

    09 June 2023 - 22:01

    SOCAR opens first hydrogen filling station in Switzerland

    09 June 2023 - 21:19

    China condemns US interference in Cuba's internal affairs

    09 June 2023 - 21:05

    US announces $2.1 billion package for Ukraine

    09 June 2023 - 20:56

    Putin: Russia to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus in July

    09 June 2023 - 20:47

    Official: Mine problem slows down reconstruction in liberated territories

    09 June 2023 - 20:40

    Iceland to suspend embassy operations in Moscow from August 1

    09 June 2023 - 20:31

    Belgium to supply Ukraine with 105mm ammunition worth $35 million

    09 June 2023 - 20:23

    Ukrainian counteroffensive has started, says Putin

    09 June 2023 - 20:14

    Poland's ruling party reveals plan to cut retirement age

    09 June 2023 - 20:06

    Estonia bars entry to Russia's Patriarch Kirill

    09 June 2023 - 19:57

    PA: We thank Türkiye, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan for their activity in liberated areas of Azerbaijan

    09 June 2023 - 19:54

    US: Iran helping Russia build drone factory east of Moscow for Ukraine war

    09 June 2023 - 19:48

    Azerbaijan first among CIS countries to host Air Navigation Summit

    Berlin passes the baton to Baku

    09 June 2023 - 19:39

    Azerbaijan, US discuss bilateral agenda of cooperation

    09 June 2023 - 19:30

All news