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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article17 June 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations3 min read

Press Statement by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi introducing the Opinions on the application for EU membership submitted by Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia

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Dear President,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just to complement what the President has just explained to you, as you have seen, in the midst of these very turbulent times, three of our partner countries have decided to send a very clear message to us and to the world. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia want to join the European Union.

They have expressed very clearly and loudly their own will, which is that they consider the European Union and membership in the European Union to be the most important and most reliable tool for their peace, stability and long-term prosperity. Now it is for Europe to show that this is a reality.

It is obvious that in this new geopolitical context, Europe has also re-assessed the importance of its own unity and the importance of the enlargement policy.

We have treated these applications very seriously, but not as business as usual. We have been working very hard. We have done our utmost to deliver as fast as we can and respond to the Council, which has asked the Commission very quickly - after the applications were received - to come up with an opinion. Because this is the first step of any process, the Commission prepares an opinion on applicant countries.

We have made a rigorous and robust assessment, you will see in the documents that we have been applying the exact same methodology as we have been doing in previous cases, and we are relying on the criteria that are well-established, the so-called Copenhagen criteria supplemented in Madrid 1995 which are, first of all, a political criteria, meaning, how the country ensures democracy, the rule of law, protection of human rights and minorities. Second criteria are the economic criteria, to assess whether there is a functioning market economy capable of resisting competitive pressures within the European Union. And third, the so-called ‘acquis criteria’, meaning the capability of applying our legislation, the EU law as is on the ground.

On the political criteria, I think the President has already explained everything to you, so I do not want to repeat that, and I think my task here would be to explain to you a bit this construction that we put forward, meaning: European perspective, candidate status with conditions and conditions to obtain candidate status.

For Moldova, I think it is very clear what needs to be done.

We need the public administration reform to go ahead and to be finished and we need a public financial management system and reinforcement of the public procurement system. These are fundamental elements of any well-functioning public administration. We need Moldova also to deliver on the judiciary, meaning, to ensure the independence, integrity, efficiency and accountability and transparency of the judiciary through the establishment of asset verification and effective democratic oversight. Of course, we have appointments to be made in the Supreme Council Magistracy and so on. The third big area of delivery would be the fight against corruption because we need proactive and efficient investigations, we need a credible track record to be established. The fourth is organized crime, where we need increased cooperation with the region, the European Union, and our international partners to see that we have asset recovery, especially after the bank fraud that we have seen in the country. We need delivery on the priorities set out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), too. And finally, on fundamental rights, we need better involvement of the civil society, and protection of human rights, particularly when it comes to the vulnerable groups and the fight against violence against women.

For Georgia, we are setting out also a comprehensive list of priorities, on the basis of which we should be able to deliver a proposal for candidate status.

On democracy, we would like to see the end of a political polarisation that has characterised the country and we need the cooperation of all political parties in the country and the delivery of the agreement that was reached with the facilitation of the European Union. This also relates to the judiciary reform because that agreement also covered that, and we need also progress on the fight against corruption, where the independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency would have to be ensured. Fourth, we need to step up the fight against organized crime, we need rigorous investigations, prosecutions, and a credible track record again here. And finally, on fundamental rights, we need to guarantee the freedom, and professional and pluralistic and independent media environment for the journalists in the country.

In conclusion, I think today is the day when we are making a proposal and we do hope that next week, the Council will follow fully our proposal.

Thank you.