Photo: Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his visit to Kiev, Ukraine in June 2022.

Scholz Knows? Belgium Says Ukraine’s EU-Candidate Status Just “Symbolic Message”

When Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he supported EU-candidate status for Ukraine during his visit to Kiev last Thursday, what was the plan?

After the announcement was made, a number of voices, including former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, joked whether the European Union would still exist by the time Ukraine could join it. Others said the move was a “suicide pill” for the EU.

TCE reported that Scholz made the proposal in exchange for a secret request to President Zelensky: negotiate a peace settlement with Russia.

Since Chancellor Scholz announced his support last week, the developments have been encouraging. On Thursday, the EU Parliament overwhelmingly supported EU candidate status for Ukraine.

The first hurdle was cleared last week, when the EU Commission recommended giving candidate status to Kiev.

Granting of the status has signalled, at the very least, an important moral victory for Ukrainian President Zelensky.

An Empty Promise?

Behind the scenes, however, the candidate status could just be a “symbolic message”.

Speaking ahead of a bloc summit on Thursday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said:

“Giving a signal to the Ukrainian population with the candidate status is a very important symbolic message”, because “Ukrainians are fighting for our values, for our values of democracy, security and peace.”

Still, De Croo conceded it will be a long road of “many years” and with “a lot reforms” before Ukraine joins the bloc:

This does not mean that Ukraine will soon be part of the European Union. It is a process of many years with a lot of reforms which will be very difficult and for us it is very important to give a strong symbolic signal.

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