Budapest Forum 2022: Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: A turning point in Ukraine's European integration?



  • Andras Racz, Senior Research Fellow at German Council on Foreign Relations
  • Hanna Hopko, Expert in Advocacy on Russian Expansionism and Hybrid Warfare
  • Jan Philipp Albrecht, Co-President, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
  • Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel, Member of the European Parliament

Moderator: Dániel Hegedűs, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States

Main takeaways

  • Ukraine's European integration is not a matter for the future, but it's unfolding in the present. The Ukrainian government applied for EU membership on February 28th, and on June 23rd, the European Council granted Ukraine a candidate status in the European Union's accession process.
  • Previously, Ukraine entered a completely custom-free trade relationship with the EU, became connected to the European electricity grid and electricity market, and the European Commission is contemplating how Ukraine could also become part of Europe's free-roaming communications zone.
  • In the current geopolitical crisis, the EU acted much more quicker and wiser than expected. The unprecedented support provided to Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia reaffirmed the position of the EU as an important geopolitical player.
  • Although the accession process of Ukraine seems to be faster than usual, Ukraine's full EU membership is not realistic, at least in the next five years. Ukraine will be fighting the war with Russia for at least another year, maybe more. After the destruction of parts of the country, the rebuilding of the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure is a feasible task; however, it is not likely that Ukraine could face competition in the European Single Market within a five-year timeline.
  • Moreover, the accession process cannot be executed faster, as it is a predetermined legal-institutional process without shortcuts. All preconditions of the process need to be met before a country – be it Ukraine, Moldova, or the Western Balkans – is able to join.
  • Although certain aspects of democracy in Ukraine may be suspended during wartime – as it is normal for any country in a state of war – there is no doubt that it will restore its democratic system after the end of the war. The restoration is ensured by the decentralised nature of the Ukrainian state and its determined political leaders, who are committed to a Western approach to democracy.
  • The integration of Ukraine into the EU would be a net gain from a geopolitical, security, economic, but also value-based perspective too.

Policy recommendations

  • Panellists advocated for an accelerated but thoughtful accession of Ukraine to the EU, including other countries of the wider region around it. Still, it is important not to make the same mistakes that characterised the accession process of the Western Balkans. While strategic patience and support provided by the EU are crucial during the process, the integration of these countries should not be made dependent on the internal reforms of the EU.
  • The EU need to keep up the popular support for Ukraine and provide continuous military, financial and humanitarian assistance. The EU also needs to patch the holes in the sanction’s regime against Russia, i.e., establishing export controls on dual-use technologies.
  • Tackling the problem of corruption is a high priority when planning the reconstruction of Ukraine. Requesting to join the European Public Prosecutor's Office would be advantageous for the country in this regard. The EU sanctions against oligarchs and practical support provided to fighting corruption are both important.





+36 20 665-0384
+36 20 665-0384