Official: EU to evaluate Ukraine's EU accession progress in spring and fall of 2023.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced on Jan. 13 that Ukraine's progress towards opening EU accession talks would be evaluated twice this year.

An interim oral assessment will take place in the spring, while an official one is scheduled for the fall of 2023.

"We are impressed by the work that Ukraine has already done," he said. "There will be an official assessment in the fall, there are defined criteria, we know that the Ukrainian authorities are working on reforms, and there will be a process of evaluating the results," he added.

Sweden currently holds the presidency of the EU Council.

In June, Ukraine was granted the status of a European Union candidate, the first step towards full-fledged membership.

Membership in the European Union has long been a key aspiration for Ukraine, which is reflected in the Ukrainian Constitution among the main goals.

In September, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine has the ambition to become a full-fledged member of the EU in two years.

To achieve that goal, the country needs to fulfill European Commission conditions on issues related to justice, the rule of law, and anti-corruption efforts, and then proceed with the negotiation process regarding EU membership.

On Dec. 27, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna reported that Ukraine had done "everything possible" to implement the recommendations provided by the EU.

However, setbacks in judicial reform remain a major obstacle to Ukraine's EU accession.

In December President Volodymyr Zelensky signed into law a bill on the Constitutional Court that may derail Ukraine’s European integration.

It has been criticized by Ukraine’s civil society and the West because it fails to give foreign experts a crucial role in assessing the integrity of candidates for Constitutional Court jobs. As a result, the President's Office will be able to handpick loyalists and fully control the Constitutional Court, according to legal experts and anti-corruption activists.

On Jan. 12, controversial candidates with links to Russia and alleged violations in asset declarations were appointed to Ukraine's main judicial governing body.

The controversial candidates for the High Council of Justice approved by the Congress of Judges had been greenlighted by the Ethics Council, a panel that includes foreign experts. Ukraine’s leading anti-corruption watchdogs issued a statement in June saying that the Ethics Council had undermined trust in judicial reform by approving tainted candidates for High Council of Justice jobs and vetoing an anti-corruption crusader. 

In December Zelensky also signed into law a controversial bill on the media. The Ukrainian authorities argued that the law aims to bring Ukrainian legislation in line with EU law and fight Russian propaganda. 

However, the bill has been criticized by Western and Ukrainian journalist organizations as an attempt to introduce censorship. The authorities have denied the accusation.