By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS, (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive is set to present on Nov.8 an assessment of progress made by Ukraine in its membership bid, three officials said, a key stepping stone in the bloc’s decision on whether to start accession talks with Kyiv.
The assessment will come in an annual report by the European Commission in Brussles detailing how far countries looking to join the 27-nation bloc have advanced in meeting the necessary economic, legal and other criteria.
A decision is then expected during a Dec.14-15 summit of EU leaders on whether to launch formal membership negotiations with Ukraine, a top priority for Kyiv as it fights the Russian invasion.
Kyiv is expected to get a positive recommendation, possibly under additional conditions related to fighting graft and the rights of minorities, the latter issue having been raised by Hungary.
A related Oct.9 as sessment by the Venice Commission – an advisory body to the Council of Europe, a European rights watchdog with 46 member countries including EU states – said the latest amendments to Ukraine’s law on national minorities were an improvement but more needed to be done.
The EU’s European Commission is expected to follow that opinion closely in its own report.
Of the other hopefuls, an EU official said this week a similar recommendation could come for Moldova, where the bloc is also engaged in a geopolitical tug-of-war with Russia.
On Georgia, “the jury is still out” on whether it would receive formal candidate status, the official said, something Kyiv won in June last year, shortly after Russia’s invasion began.
Any enlargement decisions require unanimous backing of all the bloc’s members, something that might be difficult to achieve for countries in the Western Balkans, according to EU officials and diplomats.
Instead, they said, the region could get additional financial assistance from a review of the bloc’s shared budget, something the December summit is also due to decide on.
The Commission’s proposal for the review includes earmarking 50 billion euros ($53.15 billion) to support Ukraine through 2027, as well as assigning another 15 billion to handling unauthorised immigration.
Budget decisions also require unanimity in the bloc and some member countries have asked to also raise spending on tackling natural disasters like wildfires and floods, sources said.
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