Ukraine has recently applied to join the European Union. While EU officials have been supportive of the beleaguered nation and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen went so far as to say, “We want them in the European Union,” there are obstacles to Ukraine’s accession that could well prove insurmountable. And there are considerable downsides for Ukraine itself.
The first reason is the Cohesion Policy. Under this policy, the EU redistributes wealth through a variety of funds (the Cohesion Fund, Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, etc.) These funds, which make up close to 40 percent of the EU’s budget for 2021-27, are meant to subsidize and help bring the poorer member states up to speed. Although wealthy member states can and do receive money from some of these funds, poorer members are vastly overrepresented among the recipients.
If Ukraine were to be admitted to the EU, it would become the poorest country in the union. In fact, Ukraine is already the poorest country in Europe. Ukraine’s per capita GDP is $4,384. Bulgaria, the current poorest member of the EU, has a per capita GDP of $11,332 – two and a half times that of Ukraine. These are pre-war figures and, unfortunately, Ukraine is likely to be even further behind the rest of Europe economically by the end of this war.
Not only is Ukraine poor, it is also really big. In fact, if admitted it would be the fifth most populous state in the EU. Under the Cohesion Policy, Ukraine would receive more funds than any other country in the union. And it wouldn’t even be close.