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Two years on: Ukraine’s integration into the European Union is driving domestic transformations

Article by Yuliia Shaipova

February 19, 2024

Two years on: Ukraine’s integration into the European Union is driving domestic transformations

Following ten years of gradual progress towards European Union (EU) integration, driven by the impetus created by the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, Ukraine applied for EU membership in the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion.


Many in the EU thought this was only about showing symbolic support to the war-torn country and its brave people, with these sentiments prevailing even after the EU had adopted a lightning-fast decision to grant Ukraine candidate status. While the decision was never seen as symbolic in Ukraine, importantly it is no longer seen this way in the EU either.


Over the course of the past two years, Ukraine has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to EU integration, not just with words but with deeds. The European Commission’s recommendation to commence accession negotiations, swiftly endorsed by the European Council, reflects an acknowledgement of Ukraine’s tangible efforts.[1]


The Enlargement Package report of December 2023 reveals a commendable trajectory in Ukraine’s transformation, with an overall assessment climbing from 2.15 to 2.2 on a scale of 1 to 5 throughout 2023.[2] This progress becomes even more significant when considering the addition of new indicators; a comparison with the EU annual report of 2022 would show an improvement from 2.15 to 2.28 in 2023.[3] Although the change might seem small, the EU accession process requires fundamental reforms in virtually all public spheres, not to mention close to 30,000 EU legal acts, with which the legislation of the candidate countries has to be eventually aligned. Among the current nine candidate countries, Ukraine stands out as one of the fastest-moving, underscoring the nation’s determination despite the most challenging context.


Unlike other candidate states, Ukraine is navigating its transformation amid a full-fledged war. In Ukraine, EU integration is seen as a way to secure its geopolitical choice, finally cutting ties with the Russian empire and ceasing to be a buffer zone between the EU and Russia. Moreover, everyone in Ukraine understands that the rebuilding efforts would require new approaches, ones that only a substantial transformation of the country’s economy and all institutions can provide.


With EUR 18 billion granted in 2023 and a commitment of an additional EUR 50 billion in the next four years, the EU’s support becomes a lifeline for Ukraine’s survival and recovery, along with the support coming from the UK and the US. This financial backing underscores the mutual understanding that Ukraine’s commitment to democratic and market reforms is not just an internal matter, but a shared responsibility for stability and progress in the region.


As Ukraine marks the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the narrative extends beyond conflict and resilience. It is also a story of building a future amidst the existential threat to the nation at present, leveraging EU integration as a catalyst for transformation. Although often overlooked in favour of purely military context, Ukraine’s EU integration is a process of profound importance for its success in the war.


And if sister democracies are determined to see Ukraine repel the Russian invasion and win the peace, they should also do whatever possible to support and secure its successful accession into the EU.


Yuliia Shaipova is a Ukrainian EU integration professional with experience in the governmental, business, and non-governmental sectors. She focuses on the political issues of Ukraine’s EU accession and the comparative studies of other countries’ EU integration experiences. Сurrently, Yuliia is an MSt in Diplomatic Studies candidate at the University of Oxford.


[1] Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Ukraine Report 2023, European Commission, November 2023,; General Secretariat of the Council, European Council meeting (14 and 15 December 2023) – Conclusions, European Council, December 2023,

[2] Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Opinion on Ukraine’s application for membership of the European Union, European Commission, June 2022,

[3] Commission Staff, Analytical Report following the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council, European Commission, Commission Opinion on Ukraine’s application for membership of the European Union, February 2023,


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre.

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