European Commission recommends Ukraine be granted EU candidate status - von der Leyen
BRUSSELS. June 17 (Interfax) - The European Commission has recommended that the European Council grant Ukraine European Union candidate country status, assuming that the country should make a number of necessary steps afterwards, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels on Friday.
"The Commission recommends to the Council: first, that Ukraine is given European perspective; and second, that Ukraine is given candidate status. This is, of course, on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further important reforms," von der Leyen said.
Ukraine has been "gradually moving closer to our Union," she said.
"As you know, we have an Association Agreement since 2016, and with that, Ukraine has already implemented roughly 70% of the EU acquis, that is, the rules, the standards and the norms. Ukraine is taking part in important EU programs, like, for example, the Horizon program or the Erasmus program," von der Leyen said.
"Ukraine has a very robust presidential-parliamentary democracy, it has a very well-functioning public administration that has kept and is keeping the country running," she said.
"We know this because we work very closely with the Ukrainian administration. We know that decentralization reform that the country has adopted is a success, because we see the performance of the regions and the municipalities even under the stress test," she said.
"The administration's modernization reform is ongoing," she said.
Good work has been done, but more is needed, she said.
"On the rule of law, for example: Ukraine has come far. It has come far in setting up the necessary institutions for the judiciary to function effectively, and the necessary institutions on the vetting of prosecutors. The focus should now be on speeding up the selection of the judges of the Constitutional Court, as well as the members of the High Council of Justice," she said.
In combating corruption, "Ukraine also has come far in setting up the necessary anti-corruption bodies. The focus should now be on the appointment of the new head of the anti-corruption prosecutors and the new director of the anti-corruption investigation bureau. In other words, the anti-corruption bodies are in place, now they have to become fully operational," she said.
Von der Leyen also encouraged Ukraine to continue its efforts toward "deoligarchization."
"On oligarchs: Ukraine has adopted a bold law against oligarchs, the deoligarchization law. In fact, it is the only country of the Eastern Partnership that has done so. This is good. Now, here too, it is about implementation, we want to see results on the ground," she said.
Concerning fundamental rights, "Ukraine has achieved to comply with 80% of the recommendations of the Venice Commission. What remains to be done is the adoption of the law on national minorities," she said.
Ukraine has "a very vibrant and active civil society" and an electoral system proven to be fair and free, she said.
Ukraine also has "an education system that is well developed; we know and admire the digital skills of this country and the digital infrastructure that is in place," she said.
"Ukraine has already taken important steps on the path to becoming a fully functioning market economy. This is important," she said.
She said Ukraine has deserved a European perspective, although it still has to do a lot.
"To conclude on Ukraine, we have one clear message and that is, yes Ukraine deserves European perspective, yes Ukraine should be welcome as a candidate country. This is on the understanding that good work has been done, but important work also remains to be done. The entire process is merit-based, so it goes by the book and progress depends entirely on Ukraine. So it is Ukraine that has it in its hands," von der Leyen said.
Von der Leyen said she had discussed further reforms Ukraine needs with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal when she visited Kyiv about ten days before. "And I got a very telling reply by President Zelensky. He said: 'You know, even if we would not apply for European membership, these are all reforms that are necessary and that are good for the country. And we would have to do them anyway because it is for Ukrainian democracy," she said.