European leaders gave Ukraine the status of candidate for the European Union at a summit on Thursday an important sign of continued support for Ukrainian resistance to Russian invaders and confidence in Ukraine’s future.
The President of the European Council, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, announced the news on Twitter.
“A historic moment”, Michel wrote. “Our future is together.”
The council — made up of the heads of state of all EU member countries — also approved candidate status for Moldova, which is also concerned about Russian ambitions over its territory.
Neither country will join the 27-country bloc immediately: European officials want both countries to improve their judicial systems and tackle systemic corruption to meet EU standards before starting accession talks, which are unlikely to start anytime soon. But candidate status is likely to boost Ukrainian morale amid fierce fighting in the east of the country, and analysts say the move should help Ukrainian activists push through tough domestic reforms.
Ukraine applied to join the EU days after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of the country in February. Top Ukrainians, including President Volodymr Zelenskyy, and their international supporters have spent months promoting the idea of membership for Kyiv – and garnered broad European approval in an extremely short time, considering the difficulty of unanimous support of the EU members. The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, last week recommended Ukraine’s candidacy status, and even pro-Russian EU states like Hungary have made no attempt to block the plan.
Although Putin has cited Ukraine’s links with the West as a reason for his decision to invade, he said he has no problem seeing the country as an EU member. Still, Zelenskyy has warned of possible Russian retaliation for the move, including a surge in attacks on Ukrainian targets.
The EU has a mutual defense clause, but most governments see it as far weaker than the common defense agreement in the NATO military alliance that also includes the United States and former EU member Britain. That’s one of the main reasons why EU members Sweden and Finland responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by rushing to join NATO.
The move towards EU membership could be a great boon for Ukraine. Symbolically, it would demonstrate Kiev’s independence from Russia, where Putin and his allies have repeatedly questioned whether Ukrainians should be recognized as separate from Russians. And economically, EU rapprochement would likely make Ukraine more attractive to international investors, while eventual membership could come with significant Union development grants.
“I sincerely welcome the decision of EU leaders… it is a unique and historic moment,” Zelenksyy said wrote on Twitter after the news broke.
Several other countries, including Turkey and Serbia, are also EU candidates, but their accession processes have largely been frozen.
European solidarity with Ukraine – and horror at Russian brutality during the war – makes Kyiv’s bid more likely in the years to come. And for the time being, the stamp of approval from EU members’ heads of state could also help counter growing war-weariness among some Europeans and show that aid to Ukrainians goes beyond arms shipments.
The EU has separately imposed several rounds of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow to pressure Putin to stop his attack, including a ban on most oil imports from Russia.
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/ukraine-becomes-eu-candidate_uk_62b565f2e4b06169caa4bb44 Ukraine Is Now Officially A Candidate For The European Union