In a momentous move that strikes a blow against Vladimir Putin, European leaders have given Ukraine candidate status, paving the way for the war-torn nation to join the EU.
Nearly four months after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, started his country’s application to join the club in the early days of the Russian invasion, EU leaders gathering in Brussels granted Ukraine’s candidate status on Thursday night. Moldova received candidate status as well.
Zelensky hailed the action as “a unique and historic moment” in ties with the 27-nation bloc. He applauded it right away. He tweeted, “The EU is Ukraine’s future.”
Zelensky wrote on Instagram, “It’s a victory. He said, “We have been waiting for 120 days and 30 years,” alluding to the length of the conflict and the years since Ukraine gained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “And now we shall vanquish the adversary.”
It was “a good day for Europe,” according to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. The historic choice, according to French President Emmanuel Macron, “sends a powerful signal towards Russia in the current geopolitical climate.”
Normally, it takes years for an application to become a candidate, but the EU has drastically sped up the procedure in response to public anger over the severity of the unprovoked Russian invasion and to express support for Ukraine’s defenders.
On the day of the conference, von der Leyen tweeted, “Ukraine is going through hell for a simple reason: its ambition to join the EU. Last week, the commission urged EU leaders to give Ukraine candidate status.
A candidate status would “draw a line through decades of uncertainty and establish it in stone: Ukraine is Europe, not part of the “Russian world,” as stated earlier by Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba.
Vsevolod Chentsov, the ambassador of Ukraine to the EU, claimed earlier this week that by the EU’s standards, things had proceeded “lightning fast.”
To assist the Ukrainian army and society morally and mentally, as well as to gain a clear sense of and knowledge of the direction of action for Ukraine, he stated, “We need this clarity [on EU membership].
Since the “orange revolution” of 2004 and, more recently, the Maidan uprisings of 2013–14, when Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Kremlin president, was overthrown for refusing to sign an association agreement with the EU, Ukraine has been actively seeking EU membership. However, before the conflict, the 41 million-person nation, which is rife with corruption, had no interest in joining the EU.
Many nations in western Europe expressed skepticism when Zelenskiy launched Ukraine’s application for EU membership. Senior officials estimated that 10 member nations opposed Ukraine’s candidacy, but sentiment has changed as leaders fear standing on the wrong side of history.
Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, a longtime backer of Kyiv’s membership aspirations, stated that “only a few months ago I was highly doubtful that we would reach this point here where Ukraine receives candidate status.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte confessed he had been wrong when he arrived at the conference and had been “a bit anxious” that the commission was hastily granting Ukraine candidate status. On what still has to be done to begin membership discussions, the panel had created a “stern evaluation, brutally honest with Ukraine.” He said, “Also part of the environment in which we debate this is the geopolitical situation since the end of February, the horrific and absolutely vile attack of Russia against Ukraine.”
EU capitals are also aware that the process of joining will take a long time. If a future Kyiv administration fails to carry out reforms on the rule of law and bring its economy into line with EU norms, the process might move backward.
The advancement of a candidate nation will rely on “its own merit,” but also “taking into consideration the EU’s capacity to absorb new members,” according to a draft copy of the summit conclusions seen by the Guardian.
Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, has indicated that to be ready for new members, the EU has to “change its internal procedures.” He has called for more use of qualified majority votes in areas like foreign policy.
One of several nations opposed to giving up its veto power over foreign policy decisions in France.
The 3.5 million-person Moldova, a former Soviet nation that has seen tensions rise since Russia invaded its neighbor, was also given EU candidate status by EU leaders.
Georgia received a “European perspective,” the next level down from candidate status. Leaders of the EU concurred that Georgia, a former Soviet republic, could be accorded candidate status provided Tbilisi carried out measures to respect the rule of law and safeguard media freedom. About the tens of thousands of people who demonstrated in Tbilisi on Wednesday in support of joining the EU, Von der Leyen stated, “The desire to the European Union is the biggest push on the route forward.”
Leaders of the Western Balkans, who were also meeting with EU colleagues in Brussels, expressed their joy at the favorable ruling for Ukraine while bitterly bemoaning the area’s sluggish progress toward membership. Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, stated, “Welcome to Ukraine. North Macedonia is a contender for 17 years if I haven’t lost count, Albania since eight.” “Giving Ukraine the status is a positive thing. However, I do not anticipate many illusions from the Ukrainian people.
Due to a disagreement over how to interpret history, Bulgaria has prevented North Macedonia from opening EU membership negotiations. Kiril Petkov, the prime minister of Bulgaria, had intended to remove the veto, but on Wednesday he lost a vote of no confidence, casting doubt on any upcoming agreement. The behavior of a Nato ally angered Albania, whose entry into the EU is dependent on North Macedonia.
In the middle of a blazing battle in Europe’s backyard with 26 other nations standing still in a terrifying display of helplessness, Rama remarked, “It’s a disgrace that a Nato country, Bulgaria, kidnaps two other Nato countries, namely, Albania and North Macedonia.”