How Ukrainian youth may accelerate country's integration in the EU

On 23 June 2022 Ukraine has obtained a status of  candidate for accession that envisages a consequent joining of the European Union. A number of discussions have been on-going over the recent period of time within the national discourse on how ordinary people could contribute and bring certain use towards Ukrainian integration.
This article would focus on the young people and their input to boost Ukrainian EU membership.

Ukrainian EU accession process: what happened already and what to expect?  

Ukraine applied for EU membership right after a full-scale Russian war of aggression against the country has started. It took less than four full months for European Council to agree up on the providing Ukraine with a candidate status. Since 23 June 2022 Ukraine obtained a ‘green light’ from EC and also a ‘homework’ in terms of fulfilment certain conditions specified in the report of the European Commission. Complying and dedicating of the efforts towards given conditions will allow the European Commission to assess Ukrainian progress in terms of reforms and provide its conclusions to the European Council that will decide on the opening of negotiations regarding EU membership for Ukraine.
The positive scenario here would be the opening of negotiations in October 2023 after the annual progress report by the European Commission on EU candidate MS. A negative one would be the postponing of negotiations opening to the 2024 or even for a later period.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance to put all of the efforts from civil society, youth, academia representatives and other categories of Ukrainians who are interested in becoming Ukraine an EU member state as soon as possible. 

Ukrainian youth: burden of the war and ‘golden’ opportunities

Ukrainian young people have faced with unprecedented difficulties once the full-scale invasion started. Uncertainty with the future, destruction of schools and universities, restrictions to go abroad (for men, in particular), simply desire to survive and be alive – all of the notions that impacted millions of adolescents and students across the country. Moreover, some of the young people have been conscripted to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and are currently standing on the forefront of Russian aggression.
Nevertheless, candidate status that Ukraine has obtained opens new horizons and motivation for young people to be engaged even more into the matter of foreign affairs and EU integration. And to contribute towards Ukrainian EU accession by their literate means. 

  1. Traineeships at the EU institutions. As you might already know, there are a number of traineeships (Schuman, Bluebook) in the EU institutions that offer acquiring of professional experience for young people. Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine triggered EU authorities and MEPs to open even more doors for Ukrainian young people and take them on board to the EC, EP, European Council and other EU bodies.
  2. Traineeship within the EU institutions, from one side, contributes towards personal and professional development of young Ukrainian and acquired experience might be later transformed into the foreign affairs of Ukraine related to the EU business. From the other side, traineeship in EP, for instance, provides young persons with a unique chance to knock various doors with regard to support of Ukraine, lobby for Ukrainian related files on the agenda and chat with MEPs on the issues that are drastically to be addressed within the Ukrainian context nowadays. And this is only part of the opportunities a young person would be having (not mentioning opportunities for further employment, networking circles etc). And, obviously, given traineeship only boost and reminds to the EU officials  that Ukrainian issues should be prevailing on the agenda; they are important and Ukraine aims to become EU MS as soon as  possible according to all the EU standards and acquis.
  3. Participation in study exchanges, educational programs, youth exchanges, volunteering projects. Young people nowadays have excellent opportunities to go abroad for study exchange or carry out short-term/ long-term volunteering projects across EU MS. That should not be neglected. Each of us is a cultural ambassador of Ukraine and represents country on the EU scale. It`s important to bear that in mind, to communicate with EU citizens, break and debunk stereotypes. Ukrainians have to become already EU citizens on the level of daily routine and ordinary life.
  4. CSOs activism in Ukraine. Whether one would like to believe or not but civil society became one of the driving forces of the process when Ukraine obtained candidate status. Dozens of NGOs worked 24/7 during spring of 2022 in order to complete all the necessary requirements from European Commission and submit everything on time. A recommendation here would be simply to reach out one of the CSOs that are active in the field of EU affairs and apply for a traineeship/job position with them. Personally, I am a non-resident analyst of the foundation ‘Europe Without Barriers’ that commit itself to the issues of border management and migration in Ukraine and also beyond the Ukrainian borders (EU scale, predominantly). Cooperation with the mentioned NGO started from a simple reach out and question from my side how I could contribute towards the NGOs activities and what are the current projects they are involved in.
  5. Universities and academia dimension. Formal education in Ukraine finds itself in  very precarious conditions, due to  war. Nevertheless lecturers, professors and students altogether are a very powerful mechanism that drives educational system of Ukraine and make it more progressive every single day. One should remember that the educational sphere is one of the essentials of welfare state and Ukraine is not an exemption there. Ukrainian academics have formed strong cooperation and partnerships with their colleagues worldwide. And it is important to use such networks to communicate professionalism and potential of Ukrainian young people who pursue their under/postgraduate studies under such  terrible war conditions. EU colleagues are already aware but still need this constant communication from Ukrainian side regarding the needs of our universities, our academics and, primarily, of our students. Since they are the ones who will be leading Ukraine once it will be already a member of the EU.
  6. Building of the expertise in some  areas independently and becoming a professional there. Whenever there is an absence of desire to work for someone, be involved into the formal education – there is always an opportunity to develop ourselves in some certain policy areas (for instance, human rights, gender equality, migration, environmental protection etc.). A suggestion would be  reading a lot of literature on some specific issues, to chat with professionals from that area, contribute with analytical expertise, be a panelist at some  discussions etc. Remember – starting is important and it will move on.

Concluding remarks  

As one may observe, there are options on how Ukrainian young people can be engaged and foster EU integration process either from Ukraine, or while living abroad. The process of EU accession will take time and there should not be any blind hopes on that regard. Ukraine will become a full-fledged member of EU when citizens of the country and young people, primarily, will embrace this responsibility in their everyday life. When ordinary Ukrainian youngster will be proactive, open-minded to the new experiences, will be able to think critically, will have a motivation for constant self-learning and self-development – EU integration will be going faster and smoother. Therefore, it is important to remember for every Ukrainian who currently find him/herself abroad that we already represent Ukraine and political decisions on the highest EU levels will depend in some certain extent from our actions and activities in host countries. EU integration would certainly depend on our ability to think globally and act locally. And make Ukraine a dignified member of the European family. 

Dmytro Mamayev 
[Maggio 2023]

Foto credits: Dmytro Mamayev