War-torn Ukraine moves closer to EU membership

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine should be welcome as a candidate country.

Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine has taken a further step towards joining the European Union.

The European Commission recommended on Friday that the war-torn country should become a candidate to join the bloc – although it is understood to be carrying out a number of important reforms.

The opinion of the commission, the EU’s executive arm, comes ahead of high-level talks in Brussels, Belgium, on Ukraine’s potential membership.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country – referring to a legal term that means a nation has officially started a path to EU membership. full membership.

Wearing a yellow blazer over a blue shirt to represent Ukraine’s colors, von der Leyen told a news conference the commission had a clear message for Kyiv. “And that is, yes, Ukraine deserves [the] European point of view. Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country.

“That’s on the condition that a good job has been done, but there’s also important work to be done,” von der Leyen said.

She added that the whole process was ‘merit-based’.

“So it’s on the book, and so progress is entirely up to Ukraine. Ukraine has it in its hands and what better way to shape your own future,” she said. declared.

A long and difficult path

This is the first stage of what promises to be long and difficult for Ukraine. Even with the committee’s backing, it will likely be years before member states have a chance to approve Kyiv’s membership, largely because Ukraine will have to implement economic and political reforms to comply. to European rules.

The country is also fighting against Russia, without end in view of a conflict that some have warned that it could become a “war of attrition”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the EU’s proposal to grant candidate status to Ukraine and said it would help Kyiv defeat Russia.

“This is the first step on the road to EU membership which will certainly bring our Victory closer. Grateful to
[von der Leyen] & every EC member for a historic decision,” Zelenskyy said via Twitter.

Zelenskyy said he expected EU heads of government to approve the proposal next week.

Russia, meanwhile, responded that the decision to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine required “increased attention” from the Kremlin.

Ukraine had applied to join the 27-member European Union just days after Russia invaded on February 24.

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania, who traveled to Kyiv in a show of solidarity on Thursday, all expressed their support for Ukraine’s EU membership. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had a “clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family”.

However, there are a number of other issues to consider; including the fact that several other nations are also keen to join.

What about Moldova and Georgia?

The commission also welcomed the former Soviet Republic of Moldova as a candidate for EU membership.

However, Georgia, which borders Russia and was partially overrun by the Kremlin in 2008, was first tasked with meeting certain conditions.

Moldova “is on a real pro-reform, anti-corruption and European path,” von der Leyen said.

“Georgia must now unite politically to chart a clear path to structural reform…a path that concretely defines the reforms needed, involves civil society and enjoys broad political support,” she added. .

When asked if there was a deadline for Georgia to receive candidate status, von der Leyen replied: “It’s a huge step forward for Georgia to have the European perspective. It’s a great achievement – and the door is wide open. It is now up to Georgia to take the necessary steps to move forward and come together.

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