Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia could be granted EU ‘candidate status’ as early as June 23-24, EC says

The European Commission has recommended to EU heads of state that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia be considered for full membership of the European Union.
Announcing its recommendation to EU leaders – collectively known as the European Council – on Friday June 17, the EC said the three countries should be accepted as having a “European perspective” and that Ukraine and Moldova be “granted candidate status once a number of priorities have been addressed.” Georgia, meanwhile, should be reassessed “to ensure meets a number of conditions” before being granted candidate status.

The European Council could agree to the EC recommendations in a unanimous vote on June 23 and 24.

Having “candidate status” does not give a nation the right to join the EU automatically, but it is the first step in the process and means accession negotiations can begin.

On 28 February 2022, four days after Russia’s unprovoked invasion, Ukraine presented its application for EU membership. And on 3 March 2022, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova followed suit.

If the membership applications are successful, imports from three countries would no longer be subject to EU import restrictions.

“Ukrainian exports of steel already benefit from unrestricted access to the EU market as of early June 2022, albeit temporarily for an initial period of one year,” according to Yuriy Rudyuk, a partner at independent law firm Van Bael & Bellis. He was referring to EU regulations temporarily suspending import, anti-dumping and safeguard duties on Ukraine-origin products, which formally came into force early on June 4, 2022, to support the country in the face of Russian aggression.

Rudyuk said it was highly likely the special regime for Ukraine would be extended beyond one year should the war continue.

Ukraine is a significant trade partner of the EU, supplying the substantial volumes of semi-finished and finished steel products along with raw materials for steelmaking.

Ukraine’s exports to the EU have been significantly reduced, however, due to the constant attacks on steel plants and essential infrastructure by the Russian aggressors. For instance, Metinvest – the owner and operator of the Azovstal Iron & Steel Works in Mariupol – saw its first-quarter steelmaking capacity reduced by 25% due to the war.

For 2022 as a whole, various forecasts predict that Ukraine’s gross domestic product (GDP) will fall by 30-45% and, according to the head of strategy and business development at Metinvest, Roman Perepelytsia, in a best-case scenario, the Ukrainian economy will not attain the level reached in 2021 until 2026.

Published by: Elina Virchenko

Paolo Frediani and Ross Yeo in London contributed to this article.