‘A good day for Europe’: EU grants Ukraine candidate status | Russia-Ukraine War News

The European Union has agreed to put Ukraine on the path to EU membership, acting with uncharacteristic speed and unity to wean the embattled country away from Russian influence and link it more to the West.

Meeting at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, the leaders of the 27 EU countries mustered the unanimous approval needed to grant Ukraine candidate status. This triggers an adhesion process that can take years โ€“ or even decades.

The move comes just a day away from the four-month anniversary of President Vladimir Putin ordering his troops into Ukraine for what Russia has insisted is not a war but a “special military operation”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his gratitude and declared: “Ukraine’s future lies within the EU.”

โ€œToday is a good day for Europe,โ€ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

The EU has also given candidate status to the small country of Moldova, another former Soviet republic that borders Ukraine.

Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after the February 24 invasion of Moscow. Thursday’s decision was remarkably quick for the EU and its slow expansion approach. But the war and Ukraine’s request for prompt consideration have given urgency to the country’s cause.

To gain EU membership, countries must fulfill a detailed set of economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles. Ukraine will have to curb entrenched government corruption and adopt other reforms.

Ukrainians living in Belgium protest in front of the European Council building
Ukrainians living in Belgium protest the war outside the European Council building in Brussels [Johanna Geron/Reuters]

The European Parliament endorsed Ukraine’s proposal hours before the summit began, passing a resolution that called on EU governments to “act without delay” and “fulfill their historic responsibility”.

EU nations have united in supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia with money and weapons, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against the Kremlin.

EU candidate status does not confer the automatic right to join the bloc and does not offer any immediate security guarantees.

Once a country becomes a member, however, it is covered by a clause in the EU treaty that says that if a member is a victim of armed aggression, the other EU countries are obligated to assist them by all means at the same time. your reach.

The main benefits of EU membership, however, are economic, as it gives access to a market of 450 million consumers with free movement of labour, goods, services and capital.

‘No objections’

Ukraine has long aspired to join NATO as well, but the military alliance is unwilling to offer an invitation, in part because of government corruption, weaknesses in the country’s defense system and its contested borders.

Before the war, Putin had demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, which he condemned for its eastward expansion towards Russia’s flank.

But earlier this month, he seemed unfazed by Ukraine’s determination to move closer to the EU, saying it is not a military pact and therefore “we have no objections”.

EU leaders also agreed to recognize a “European perspective” for another former Soviet republic, Georgia.

European Council President Charles Michel said the EU will be ready to approve his candidate status once the “pending priorities” are addressed.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose country has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s European aspirations for years, said on Twitter: โ€œThis is a great moment for Europe’s unity and for defending its basic values. The fight for freedom continues.โ€

The joining process can be long and tortuous.

In the same way, several Balkan countries have tried unsuccessfully to join the EU for many years.

Despite waves of crises that have rocked the EU since migration and Britain’s departure from the bloc, the union remains popular, with a poll this week showing approval for EU membership at a 15-year high.

However, public discontent is mounting on inflation and an energy crisis as Russia restricts gas supplies in response to sanctions, issues for the second day of the summit on Friday.

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