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EU opens accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova

 Image: Getty Images

Commission president expects challenges and “immense opportunities” for countries and bloc

The EU has formally opened talks with Ukraine and Moldova on the two countries joining the bloc, which could ultimately result in them influencing policy, hosting facilities and taking bigger roles in joint initiatives.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, said the move on 25 June was “very good news” and could be a “transformative moment for these two countries and for our union”.

“The path ahead will be challenging. But it is also filled with immense opportunities,” she said, explaining that the negotiations are intended to “prepare the candidates for the responsibilities of membership” with “no shortcuts”.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU national leaders, said that this “historic moment” was “the result of Ukraine and Moldova’s enormous efforts to reform”.

“The transformative steps taken in areas such as rule of law, governance and judicial systems offer hope and give a clear indication of their unwavering aspiration to join the European family,” he said, but he warned that the negotiations would be “a long process”.

“Ukraine and Moldova will need to continue their work to strengthen institutions, continue combating corruption and enhance economic stability to meet the rigorous standards of full EU membership,” he said.

Research implications

EU research and innovation commissioner Iliana Ivanova congratulated the countries on social media, saying that “the opening of accession talks is good news for them and good news for the EU”.

A document setting out the EU’s position on the talks pointed out that Ukraine and Moldova are already participating in “a large number” and “a number” of EU programmes, respectively.

Both are already associate members of the Horizon Europe R&I programme, for example, which means they can win EU funding from it, host researchers supported by funders including the European Research Council and lead collaborative projects. But there are small parts of the programme—judged to have particular security implications—that are off-limits to non-EU countries.

Both countries are also part of the EU health programme, while both can benefit from “certain actions” of the bloc’s academic mobility programme Erasmus+. Ukraine is also participating in the Euratom nuclear training and research programme and the Digital Europe programme.

Science and research together comprise one of more than 30 thematic areas the negotiations will cover, with others including education and culture, intellectual property law, competition policy and statistics.