European Union leaders on Thursday intend to grant Ukraine candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc, the first step on a long and unpredictable path to full membership that could take many years to achieve.
Turning the war-torn country into a challenger now seems like a done deal after leaders were initially divided over how quickly they could accept the war-torn country’s offer, which was filed just days after Russia launched its Feb. 24 invasion. .
Ukraine will receive the unanimous approval it needs to start talks, according to several EU diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the Brussels summit.
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The 27 EU countries have come together in support of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion by passing unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow. However, leaders were initially divided on how quickly the EU should admit Ukraine into membership, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark being the most skeptical.
But Ukraine’s bid received support last week when the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, approved it based on Ukraine’s responses to a questionnaire received in April and early May.
Ukraine received another push in the arm when the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania visited the country and promised to support her candidacy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke to a total of 11 EU leaders on Wednesday, after calling nine the previous day, further showing how important the EU candidacy is for Ukraine. He said the meeting in Brussels would be “a historic session of the European Council”.
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However, EU candidate status does not automatically entitle you to join the bloc, nor does it provide any security guarantees.
For Ukraine, the start of accession negotiations will depend on how well the war-torn country can meet basic political and economic conditions.
To be accepted, potential newcomers must demonstrate that they meet the standards of democratic principles, and they must learn about 80,000 pages of rules covering everything from trade and immigration to fertilizer and the rule of law.
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To help countries with candidate status, the bloc may provide technical and financial assistance throughout negotiations, but may also decide to withdraw status if necessary reforms are not implemented.
European officials have stated that Ukraine has already implemented about 70% of EU rules, norms and standards, but also repeatedly pointed to corruption and the need for deep political and economic reforms.
It is unlikely that accession talks could begin before next year, as the prospect that the war could drag on for a very long time adds to the uncertainty.
“Significant efforts will be required, especially in fighting corruption and establishing an effective rule of law,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo. “But I am convinced that it is the (post-war) reconstruction of Ukraine that will provide an opportunity to take important steps forward.”
The leaders will also discuss on Thursday the European Commission’s recommendation to grant Moldova, a tiny non-NATO country that borders Ukraine, EU candidate status. The stalled process of enlargement to include the countries of the Western Balkans is also on their agenda.
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