Ukraine Granted European Union Candidate Status
BRUSSELS — The European Union agreed Thursday to put Ukraine on a path toward EU membership, acting with uncharacteristic speed and unity to pull the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West.
Meeting at a summit in Brussels, leaders of the EU’s 27 nations mustered the required unanimous approval to grant Ukraine candidate status. This sets off a process that can take many years, if not decades.
Also, the EU granted Moldovan candidate status. This tiny former Soviet country borders Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pronounced it a “good day for Europe.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his gratitude and declared: “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”
Ukraine requested membership within a matter of weeks after Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2014. Thursday’s decision was unusually rapid for the EU. But the war and Ukraine’s request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to its cause.
A host of economic, political, and democratic conditions must be met by countries to gain EU membership. Ukraine must, among other conditions, curb corruption within its government, and also adopt reforms.
The European Parliament endorsed Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit started, passing a resolution that called on EU governments to “move without delay” and “live up to their historical responsibility.”
“It will strengthen Ukraine, it will strengthen Europe. It is a decision for freedom and democracy and puts us on the right side of history,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said ahead of the final announcement.
The EU’s nations have been united in backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion with money and weapons, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against the Kremlin.
EU candidate status doesn’t give an automatic right to join the bloc and doesn’t provide any immediate security guarantees.
However, once a country becomes a member, they are covered by an EU Treaty Clause that states, if the member is attacked, all EU countries have to help it.
The benefits of EU membership are primarily economic. This is because it allows you to access a market that has 450m consumers and provides free movement for labor, capital, and goods.
Ukraine has long aspired to join NATO, too, but the military alliance is not about to offer an invitation, in part because of governmental corruption, shortcomings in the country’s defense establishment, and its contested borders.
Before the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, which he has condemned for its eastward spread toward Russia’s flank. But earlier this month, he did not seem bothered by Ukraine’s determination to get closer to the EU, saying it is not a military pact and thus “we have no objections.”
Membership can be difficult and lengthy.
Turkey was one example. It applied for membership in87, got candidate status 1999, but had to wait till 2005 to begin talks to become a member. Only one of more than 30 negotiating “chapters” has been completed in the years since, and the whole process is at a standstill as a result of various disputes between the EU and Turkey.
Similar to the Balkans, many Balkan nations have tried unsuccessfully for years to become members of the EU.
European officials claim that Ukraine has adopted 70% of EU norms and standards. However, they point out corruption as well as the need for serious economic reforms.
“Considerable efforts will be needed, especially in the fight against corruption and the establishment of an effective rule of law,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said. “But I am convinced that it is precisely the (postwar) reconstruction of Ukraine that will provide opportunities to take important steps forward.”
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