Ukraine’s top EU negotiator says war-torn country won’t seek ‘discount’ on entry commitments

Ukraine’s lead negotiator to join the European Union says the war-torn country is on an “irreversible” course of Western integration after the EU agreed to formally start entry negotiations this week

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s top official for Europe says the war-torn country is on an “irreversible” course of Western integration after the European Union agreed to formally start entry negotiations this week.

The decision to launch accession talks this week is a “big day” for her country, Olga Stefanishyna, the deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, said.

“This is the utmost will of the Ukrainian people. And this is the irreversibility. And you’ve seen Ukrainians stand up for their choice,” Stefanishyna said, speaking in Kyiv Sunday.

It was her first interview since being appointed chief negotiator for EU accession.

EU member countries agreed Friday to start entry talks with Ukraine and Moldova – overcoming vocal opposition from Hungary which takes over the EU's rotating presidency on July 1. The process of joining varies for each country but could take years. Turkey started its accession talks almost two decades ago and is still waiting for full membership.

Stefanishyna will head the opening of the accession talks in Luxembourg Tuesday, joined by several top government officials. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to give a speech at the launch ceremony, but Stefanishyna did not elaborate whether he would do so in person or online.

Zelenskyy described Friday’s decision as a “historic step,” adding in an online post: “Generations of our people are realizing their European dream. Ukraine is returning to Europe.

A survey of opinion polling by the European Parliament earlier this year suggested that EU citizens broadly back Ukraine’s membership bid but are less supportive of fast-tracking the process.

Ukraine, Stefanishyna said, was not seeking special treatment.

“Ukraine is moving fast,” she said, “without skipping any elements of the process (and) without asking (for) any discount.”

Russia has used economic pressure and ultimately military force to try and reverse the aspirations of its former Soviet neighbor to join Western alliances it regards as hostile.

Deadly protests a decade ago to demand that the government stick to a pledge to forge closer ties with the EU put the country on a collision course with Russia.

“It’s a big day for everybody,” said Stefanishyna, who frequently showed emotion while describing the integration process. “It has been around two years since Ukraine applied for membership. The war is still raging on, but the accession is starting right now.”

Stefanishyna, a 38-year-old lawyer who has worked in civil service and government positions since her early twenties, will lead Ukraine’s 35-member delegation for negotiations with the EU.

In 2019, Ukraine changed its constitution to include those aspirations and formally applied to join the EU on Feb. 28, 2022 – five days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Bordering EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, Ukraine would overtake France to become the largest member of the bloc if it joined, shifting its center of gravity further eastward.

Together with Moldova, it’s in a long line with other candidates – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey – some with membership aspirations spanning decades.

Ukraine is hoping to join by 2030.

While praised for making progress since its application, Ukraine must carry out dozens of institutional and legal reforms required for membership. The daunting list is led by steps to combat corruption, and includes broad reforms to public administration, the judiciary, and market rules.

More than 1000 people in Ukraine are already involved in the accession process which will proceed without a summer break.

“The next half a year will be crucial for our key negotiators,” she said, adding that Ukraine needs to come up with a clear reform roadmap.

“The accession process and Ukraine’s membership is the top priority of our president,” she said. “Ukraine is a bit crazy and obsessed with the EU accession process.” ___

Follow AP's coverage of the war in Ukraine at

Credit: AP

Credit: AP