The adoption of a far-sighted and clear decision at the European Council meeting in December to open negotiations on Ukraine's membership in the European Union will prove that the EU enlargement process is a reality and a key to security across the European continent. This was stated by Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, following a meeting with Karoline Edtstadler, Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution at the Federal Chancellery of Austria, on Thursday, 23 November, in Vienna, Austria.
During the meeting, the parties discussed Ukraine's progress on the path of reforms, EU enlargement and support for Ukrainians in the face of russia's ongoing brutal war.
"Ukraine's progress towards EU membership serves the interests of all candidate countries seeking to integrate into the EU. It will show that reforms are moving the candidate country towards real membership. The EU now has a real opportunity to restart the process and restore confidence in enlargement," the Deputy Prime Minister stressed.
Olha Stefanishyna discussed with her Austrian counterpart the continuation of Ukraine's transformations, including judicial reform, strengthening accountability and transparency in the public sphere.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that Ukrainian society was the "main watchdog" of the reform process, not allowing any delays or hesitations in decision-making, which would bring the country closer to the EU membership. "We are moving fast because it is a public demand," said Olha Stefanishyna.
They also discussed the next steps on the path of reforms, including those outlined in the European Commission's report. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that this week the Verkhovna Rada had passed draft laws aimed at strengthening the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) by increasing the number of staff of this body, as well as clarifying the powers and strengthening the independence of the head of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAP). "We are also ready to pay more attention to issues related to the protection of the rights of national minorities to address possible concerns," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
"We understand that EU accession is a merit-based process. And I believe that the decision to join the bloc should be made on this basis. At the same time, we understand that the steps recommended by the European Commission for each of the enlargement countries are only part of the way. And I am convinced that all the enlargement countries, not just Ukraine, are looking forward to the leadership of the European Council in December," Olha Stefanishyna stressed.
For her part, Austrian Minister Karoline Edtstadler noted the significant progress that Ukraine had made towards receiving the European Commission's recommendation to start accession negotiations.
She also assured that despite the events in the Middle East, Austria did not lose sight of the russian aggression against Ukraine and continued to support Ukraine.