After several days of internal EU discussions and following recommendations on Friday that Ukraine and Moldova become candidates for membership, draft conclusions by the European Council (EUCO) read: “The European Council has decided to grant the status of candidate country to Ukraine and to the Republic of Moldova.” The decision is significant in the nations’ potential journey from ex-Soviet republics to developed economies in the world’s largest trading group.
The EUCO draft conclusions, which claim the future of Ukraine and Moldova as well as Georgia “lies within the European Union”, echo comments made by European ministers and diplomats on Tuesday that pointed to Thursday as the day of the announcement of the countries’ updated status.
Three officials told Reuters that no opposition among the 27 EU member states had surfaced about Ukraine, which already has a free trade pact with the bloc but applied to join days after Russia‘s war began.
Moldova is also almost certain, too, to be given candidate status, the diplomats said, although Georgia must fulfil conditions, namely that it overcome political deadlock in the country.
For Kyiv, this week is poised to become a symbolic but morale-boosting moment in the military conflict launched by Russia in late February.
Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn told reporters before a meeting with other Brussels ministers: “We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends.”
He told reporters: “It’s very good and it’s something that Denmark wholeheartedly supports; we want to help Ukraine to achieve its European dream.”
On Friday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We have one clear message – and that is, yes, Ukraine deserves European perspective; yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country.
“This is on the understanding that good work has been done but important work remains to be done.”
She added: “The entire process is merit-based, so it goes by the book and progress depends entirely on Ukraine.
“So it is Ukraine that has it in its hands.”
Candidacy status will mark a strategic eastward shift by the bloc in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Kyiv will likely take years to become an EU member, if at all.