Ukraine officially became a candidate for the European Union

European leaders at the summit on Thursday awarded Ukraine the status of an EU candidate in a key sign of continued support for Ukrainian resistance to Russian invaders and confidence in Ukraine’s future.

This was announced on Twitter by the President of the European Council, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

“Historic Moment” Michelle wrote. “Our future together.”

The Council, which includes the heads of state of all EU member states, has additionally approved the status of a candidate for Moldova, which is also concerned about Russian ambitions for its territory.

Neither country will immediately join the 27-country bloc: European officials want both countries to improve their judicial systems and tackle systemic corruption to meet EU standards before launching membership talks that are unlikely to start anytime soon. But gaining candidate status is likely to boost Ukrainian morale amid fierce fighting in the country’s east, analysts say. must help Ukrainian activists to carry out difficult internal reforms.

Ukraine applied to join the EU days after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of the country in February. Senior Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, and their international supporters have spent months pushing the idea of ​​Kyiv membership – and in a very short time have achieved broad European agreement, given the difficulty of securing unanimous support from EU members. The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, last week recommended candidate status to Ukraine, and even EU countries close to Russia, such as Hungary, No tried to block this plan.

While Putin cited Ukraine’s ties to the West as a problem that helped him decide to invade, he said he had no problem viewing the country as a member of the EU. Nevertheless, Zelenskiy warned of a possible Russian response to the move, such as an increase in attacks on Ukrainian targets.

The EU has a mutual defense clause, but most governments see it as much weaker than a joint defense agreement in NATO’s military alliance, which also includes the United States and former EU member Britain. This is a key reason why European Union members Sweden and Finland reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by rushing to join NATO.

The move towards EU membership could be a great boon for Ukraine. Symbolically, this would demonstrate Kyiv’s independence from Russia, where Putin and his allies have repeatedly questioned whether Ukrainians should be recognized as separate from Russians. And from an economic point of view, rapprochement with the EU is likely to make Ukraine more attractive to international investors, and possible membership may be associated with large development grants from the union.

“I sincerely welcome the decision of the EU leaders… this is a unique and historic moment,” Zelensky. wrote on Twitter after the release of the news.

Several other countries, including Turkey and Serbia, are also candidates for EU membership, but their EU accession processes have been largely frozen.

European solidarity with Ukraine – and horror at Russia’s wartime brutality – make Kyiv’s bid more likely in the coming years. And for now, the EU Heads of State Seal of Approval can also help address the growing war weariness among some Europeans, showing that aid to Ukrainians goes beyond the supply of arms.

The EU has separately imposed several rounds of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow to try to get Putin to stop his attacks, including a ban on most oil imports from Russia.

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