The European Union should begin seriously preparing for the accession of Ukraine, and by then consider the abolition of trade tariffs and the provision of access to internal markets, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said in an interview with The Guardian.
She believes that the EU should not hinder Ukraine's European integration and hopes to start official negotiations before Christmas.
"If they are going fast, we should match that speed.I expect a concrete outcome because the worst signal could be that we have given these people targets and deadlines which we can’t meet ourselves," the top EU official said.
Roberta Metsola warned that postponing the European integration of Ukraine and other member countries will only fuel nationalism and far-right sentiments. "It increases the extremes on the political spectrum, the Euroscepticism. Campaigns in accession countries are fought, and lost or won, on the basis of the dream and hope of the EU," she said.
Metsola added that such a significant expansion of the European Union will require changes in economic policy.
"Of course the economic model that we have today is not one that would survive with 32 or 33 [member states]. But now is when we need to have that conversation. We’ve already started in the parliament," she said.
The head of the European Parliament suggested that the candidate countries could already be given certain benefits of membership, without waiting for official accession to the European Union.
For example, this could involve integrating Ukraine into the EU roaming network, referred to as "roaming visa-free" in Ukraine, as Kyiv aims to seal a related deal with the EU yet in 2022. "If we are going to extend roaming to those countries, let’s do that. The network operators are ready to do that," said Metsola.
Secondly, she proposes to remove trade barriers for business.
"Pre-accession also means access to funds, access to universities, access for students, the possibility to tap into the internal market, whether we do import and export tariffs,” she said. “We said for years Ukraine could not be connected to the European electricity grid. It took us days to do that once the war started. At the end of the day it was always about political will," Metsola said.
Ukraine and Moldova were granted EU candidate country status on June 23, 2022.
The European Commission has provided an action plan that must be implemented in order to start negotiations on joining the bloc. A number of reforms are expected from Ukraine, including anti-corruption reforms.
Ukraine expects to become a member of the European Union in the coming years.
Support for joining the EU among Ukrainians is now at a record high level.