The European Union is preparing to open negotiations with Ukraine on its future accession to the bloc, with a formal announcement expected as soon as December, Politico reported, citing three diplomatic sources.
EU leaders are preparing to give Kyiv the green light to begin formal talks on joining the 27-country bloc before the end of the year.
The EU commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is due to issue a ‘progress report’ on how well Ukraine and other aspiring members are meeting the bloc's conditions for joining in November.
Once the progress report has been adopted, the Commission will make a statement that will make it "very hard for member states not to say let's open negotiations" for Ukraine, one EU diplomat told Politico.
"The political push around that will just be too big for individual member states to resist. The working assumption is indeed that by December, the European Council will decide to open negotiations," the source said.
The European commission has provided Ukraine with an action plan with seven recommendations that needs to be implemented to start accession negotiations. Those include a number of reforms, including in terms of combating corruption and ensuring rights of national minorities.
While Ukraine may not have met all seven conditions put forth by the EU commission by the time European heads of state and government gather for a summit in mid-December, leaders are set to make a political statement authorising negotiations even if the legal negotiating framework is not yet finalised, Politico reported.
"The aim is to agree politically in December on the start of negotiations," a second diplomat told the publication, adding that a legal decision on admitting Ukraine could happen by early 2024.
A third EU diplomat said leaders would "send a positive signal" on Ukraine's future membership in December.
Asked how far Ukraine has come toward fulfilling the seven criteria, an EU official said that progress was encouraging and only one area, concerning minorities, seemed problematic in the short term.