European Union agreed to put Ukraine on a path towards EU membership, acting with uncharacteristic speed and unity to pull the war-torn country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West.
Meeting at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, leaders of the EU’s 27 nations martialed the required unanimous approval to grant Ukraine candidate status setting in motion a membership process that could take years – or even decades.
The move comes just one day short of the four-month anniversary of President Vladimir Putin ordering his troops into Ukraine for what Russia insisted is not a war, but a “special military operation”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his gratitude and declared: “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”
“Today is a good day for Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also said on Twitter.
EU also gave candidate status to the tiny country of Moldova, another former Soviet republic that borders Ukraine.
Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on February 24. Thursday’s decision was unusually rapid for the EU and its go-slow approach to expansion. But the war and Ukraine’s request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to the country’s cause.
EU candidate status does not give an automatic right to join the bloc and does not provide any immediate security guarantees.
To be accorded EU membership, countries must meet a detailed host 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 in order to conform to the standard.