The European Union’s executive arm on Friday recommended making Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, a first step in what was expected to be a long road for the war-torn country to join the 27-nation bloc.
The European Commission presented its proposal to grant Ukraine candidate status after a quick analysis of responses to a questionnaire. The Ukrainian government applied for EU membership less than a week after Russia invaded the country.
“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” said commission chair Ursula von der Leyen. “We want them to live with us, the European dream.”
Leaders of the bloc’s existing members are expected to discuss the recommendation during a summit next week in Brussels. The European Commission’s endorsement, while a strong sign of solidarity with Ukraine, will likely take years or even decades to materialize in EU membership.
Support from visiting leaders
Launching accession negotiations with a potential member requires the unanimous approval of all member nations. They expressed differing opinions on how quickly to add Ukraine to their ranks.
But Ukraine’s candidacy was shot in the arm on Thursday when the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania visited the country and pledged to support Kyiv to become an official candidate.
To be admitted, potential newcomers must demonstrate that they meet EU standards on issues such as anti-corruption and democratic principles, and must absorb around 80,000 pages of rules covering everything from trade and immigration to fertilizer and the rule of law. .
“Yes, Ukraine deserves a European perspective. It should be hailed as a candidate country, on the understanding that important work still needs to be done,” von der Leyen said on Friday. “The whole process is based on merit. It follows the book and therefore progress is entirely up to Ukraine.”