EU leaders have granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate status, marking a key point on the countries’ path to possible EU membership.
The decision was made on Thursday night during a two-day meeting of the European Council in Brussels.
Both countries applied for membership in the weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Georgia also applied for membership but did not receive candidate status on Thursday.
Usually the path to join the EU is long and Byzantine, it takes years. But at least in the initial stages, EU leaders are moving with record speed on offers from Ukraine and Moldova, in part an effort to show solidarity with countries facing the most immediate threats from Moscow. .
“A historic moment,” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted just after the decision. “Today marks a crucial step on their path to the EU.”
Still, it may be years before either country finally joins the EU, as Brussels works with each to implement the myriad reforms required for membership.
“Historic day”: the European Union grants Ukraine the status of a candidate for accession
The countries of the European Union (EU) agreed this Thursday to grant Ukraine y Moldavia the status of candidates for accession to the bloc, announced the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, who assured that it is a “historic day”.
The decision, adopted on the first day of a European summit in Brussels occurs four months after the start of a war of Russia contra Ukraine.
The complete process of accession to the European Union, which currently has 27 member countries, however, may take several years to be effective.
“This is a unique and historic moment in relations between Ukraine and the EU,” the Ukrainian president tweeted, Volodymyr Zelensky adding that “Ukraine’s future lies within the EU”.
As for Georgia, another former Soviet republic that also aspires to enter the European Union must advance in its reforms to achieve the status of a candidate country, decided the summit of the bloc.
Brussels grants EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova
“Thanks to Presidents Michel and Von der Leyen and to European leaders for their support, the future of Ukraine lies in the EU”, celebrates Zelensky
Ukraine and Moldova are, as of this Thursday, official candidates to enter the European Union. The Heads of State and Government of the 27 have so decided at the last European Council before the summer, a summit that has been marked, clouded, by the anger and complaints of the Balkan partners , very upset by what they consider discrimination and double standards. The EU wanted this to be a party, the celebration of a political message and a symbol of unity and solidarity in the face of Russian aggression, but the day has been defined by impotence and dissatisfaction.
“Okay, the European Council has just ruled on the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova. A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your way to the EU. Congratulations Volodimir Zelensky and Maia Sandu and the people of Ukraine and Moldova , our future is together”, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel , celebrated at 8:20 p.m. “Today is a good day for Europe, congratulations Presidents Zelenski and Sandu and Prime Minister Gharibashvili”, added the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, also citing the Georgian leader. The country does not achieve candidate status, but it does achieve the “European perspective”, a preliminary step in the absence of fulfilling all the necessary conditions to begin negotiations. “Your countries are part of the European family and the historic decision of the leaders confirms this today,” added Von der Leyen.
A RECORD PROCESS
The process has broken all records in the history of the EU. The usual thing, since a country requests its candidate status, is that the evaluation of the European Commission, completely essential, takes around a year, but this time it has been resolved in a matter of weeks and in the middle of a war . Brussels defends that it has maintained all the standards, that the controls have been as exhaustive as always despite the circumstances, but the unanimous feeling in all the capitals is that we are facing something completely abnormal. That perhaps it was the best option, or the only one, but that it is not ‘business as usual’ at all.
“We warmly welcome the decision of the EU leaders to grant candidate status to our country. It is a unique and historic moment in relations . Thanks to Presidents Michel and Von der Leyen and to European leaders for their support, Ukraine’s future lies in the EU”, celebrated Zelensky, who for months has used all the diplomacy at his disposal, public and private, to reach this point, linking his destiny to that of his neighbors to the west.
The decision, in reality, changes little or nothing in the situation of the applicants in practice but it changes everything about the process and the underlying philosophy. Accession negotiations can last five, 10, 15 years or more and there is no guarantee of success. The Turkish case is the best example. Ukraine is not ready and it will not be soon , and there is no doubt about it. That is why there were different Member States that were not in favor of reaching this point, not so soon at least, but the pressure of the majority, of the circumstances, has prevailed. Not accepting would have sent a message of division, of doubt, and if the EU has been looking for anything since February 24, it is to go hand in hand everywhere on this issue.
The EU gives the greatest show of support for Ukraine by endorsing its candidacy for the community bloc
The leaders of the European Union have recognized this Thursday that the fate of Ukraine is linked to that of the community bloc. The Twenty-seven have decided at a summit in Brussels to give the greatest show of support to the Eastern neighbor by granting it the status of a candidate country for EU membership. The gesture is loaded with symbolism towards a State broken by war since the invasion orchestrated by Russia exactly 120 days ago , and is the starting signal for a very long and complex process to become a full member of the Union family. . Moldova, which has followed in the footsteps opened by kyiv shortly after the start of the contest, has also obtained the same recognition.
“Agreement. The European Council has just decided on the EU candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova”, announced the President of the Council, Charles Michel, through social networks. “A historic moment. A crucial step is taken today on their path to the EU”, he added. “Our future is to be together.”
The EU thus picks up the gauntlet of the European Commission, which recommended taking the step a week ago, but under the demand that Kiev undertake far-reaching reforms in fields ranging from the independence of the judiciary to the fight against the economic control of oligarchs and corruption in the country.
The text of conclusions adopted this Thursday by the Heads of State and Government in the European Council, a thoughtful written formula agreed by the leaders and which serves to set the political course of the Union, calls on the European Commission to report on the progress from Ukraine. “The Council will decide the steps to follow once all these conditions are met,” adds the draft of the text to which EL PAÍS has had access. Georgia, which also claimed its candidacy shortly after the invasion began, falls out of the group: a European perspective is recognized, but the EU will only decide on its case once it takes charge of a list of conditions.
If it adheres, something that could take years (Turkey was touched with this same wand more than two decades ago, in the already distant December 1999), Ukraine would be the largest country in terms of area in the Union, a true agricultural power, albeit severely currently affected by the Russian invasion. And it would add 44 million inhabitants to the block, according to the census prior to the war.
The road could be very long, kyiv still has to complete many milestones to even begin negotiations to join the club, but for Ukraine, which years ago consecrated its turn towards the West and where the majority of the population is pro-European, according to polls, it is a symbolic and backup step.
The decision of the leaders of the Twenty-seven is also a “gesture of trust” towards Ukraine, stressed Vsevolod Chentsov, Ukrainian ambassador to the EU; a wink that he can undertake the reforms that are asked of him and that he is on the right track.
Kiev, however, reiterates that it needs more weapons to resist Russian aggression and sources from the Cabinet of Volodímir Zelenski – who has been embarking on a marathon of phone calls with his EU counterparts for two days to force himself towards the candidacy – slip that The 9,000 million euros that Brussels plans to unlock as new macro-financial assistance to Ukraine is an amount much less than its needs. The director of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, has estimated at 1 billion euros the amount that Ukraine needs to repair the damage caused by the Russian invasion.
With the war very focused on Donbas, in an increasingly bloody battle, for the Zelensky government it is also important to start paving the way for the required reforms in the areas of justice, anti-corruption and good governance as soon as possible. Faced with a war that could stall and drag on, the Ukrainian leader, an outward symbol of resistance to Russian aggression, could be hit if fatigue and boredom set in. The candidacy and the work to comply with the reforms gives him bellows.
The debate in Brussels has not been easy. Countries like Austria, which until recently had been opposed to Ukraine’s candidacy, have reconsidered and reversed their reticence, but have instead demanded an express mention of the countries of the Western Balkans. The leaders of this region have starred in a tense morning in Brussels : after a meeting with the Twenty-seven that served as a starter for the summit, the leaders of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia have shown their anger at an accession process that has taken years stalled, as they watch Ukraine and Moldovathey approach the club on the fast track. Vienna, for example, wants “the EU’s gaze not to be directed only to the East, bypassing the Balkans,” explains a diplomatic source familiar with the discussions.
In January, before the invasion, Ukraine’s candidacy seemed a long way off. However, for kyiv it has been a matter of survival. A few days after Putin launched the full-scale war, President Zelensky submitted the request. And from there, although behind the scenes he has encountered the reluctance of countries closer to Moscow —such as Hungary— and of others who wanted clearer conditions and requirements, everything has gone smoothly for the Ukrainian leader. Giving candidate status to the country ravaged by war and in which the invasion ordered by Putin continues to wreak havoc, Zelensky has repeated over and over again about the historic step, means that the EU attends to the “longing of Ukrainian citizens to be part of the European family.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.