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Moldova, Ukraine inch closer to EU

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-17 09:39
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European Union ambassadors have agreed in principle on the negotiating framework for talks on Moldova and Ukraine joining the bloc, a process that could take many years.

The presidency of the Council of EU announced the news on Friday evening. "The Belgian presidency will call the first intergovernmental conference on 25 June," it said on X. The six-month Belgian presidency will end on June 30 and will be succeeded by Hungary during the second half of the year.

The intergovernmental conference will be held in Luxembourg, where European affairs ministers of the 27 EU member states are due to meet. An intergovernmental conference with a candidate country marks the formal start of accession talks.

EU finance ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Friday to formally approve the decision.

In the Netherlands, approval from the parliament is a must. A debate there is due on Thursday, and approval is likely.

The country's foreign ministry said in a letter to the parliament that the government shares the European Commission's assessment that both Moldova and Ukraine have taken the steps relevant to this phase and thus comply with the commission's recommendations of Nov 8 last year.

EU leaders and experts have applauded the decision.

The President of the European Council Charles Michel said he is looking forward to the June 25 conference.

Ukraine applied to join the EU in February 2022, days after the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out. Moldova applied the following month. The two countries were granted candidate status in June 2022.

The European Commission confirmed on June 7 that both Ukraine and Moldova have met the requirements for starting negotiations.

"All the steps have been met by the two countries," a commission spokeswoman, Ana Pisonero, said.

Some EU members had been pushing for the intergovernmental conference to be held before Hungary's rotating presidency on July 1 because the country has voiced opposition to Ukraine's accession. However, Hungary removed its long-standing veto after traditional phrasing on national minorities and protection of minority languages was added to Ukraine's negotiating framework, EU diplomats told the media.

"The rights of persons belonging to national minorities should be protected, in line with the constitution of Ukraine," the updated negotiating framework text says.

Ukraine is expected to try to curb the power of oligarchs and adopt various policy changes.

Alberto Alemanno, a professor of EU law at the business school HEC Paris, described the news as "the last move toward (EU) enlargement" before the new European Parliament settles in. The first plenary session of the new European Parliament will take place from July 16 to 19 in Strasbourg, France.

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