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February 2022 became a turning point in Ukraine’s recent history when it applied for the EU candidate status, finding itself in the hottest phase of Russian uncovered full-scale invasion. Prompt granting of the candidate status for Ukraine at the EU Council meeting on the 23-24 of June opened the door for Ukraine’s accession and raised a number of questions regarding the possible accession pathway for Ukraine given its (geo)strategic positioning and relevance, geographic size and economic importance. The candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova brings renewed force to the ongoing debate on the future of the EU as a whole.
The primary aim of this paper is to examine the relevant experience and lessons learned by four Western Balkan countries during their accession process and develop a set of recommendations for Ukraine applicable to its current stance and country-specific circumstances.
The paper describes the essence and the recent developments of the EU enlargement focusing on explanations of how the enlargement process works and what its recent trends are, as well as identifying the key stumbling blocks that impede successful progress of candidate countries on the way to signing the accession treaty. Issues such as conflicts with neighboring EU member states and EU candidate countries, adherence of the EU to what some dub ‘stabilitocracy’ policy towards the Western Balkans region – that is, a preference of stability over democratic change —, and new geopolitical momentum for the EU enlargement policy that has been boosted again by war-inflicted Ukraine’s candidacy are examined in detail.