The European Commission has proposed that Ukraine becomes a membership candidate to join the EU, albeit on the understanding that the war-ravaged country carries out a number of important reforms.
The opinion from the commission, the executive arm of the EU, comes ahead of high-level discussions in Brussels, Belgium about Ukraine’s potential membership.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine should be welcome as a candidate country — referring to a legal term that means that a nation has officially started an accession path to full membership of the EU.
“Ukraine has already taken important steps on the path to becoming a fully functioning market economy. This is important because, of course, Ukraine has to be capable of integrating into the single market,” she said at a press conference.
However, she stressed further important work remains.
It is the first step in what is set to be a long and difficult road for Ukraine. Even with the commission’s backing, it will likely be years before member states are given the opportunity to approve Kyiv’s accession — to a large extent because Ukraine will have to implement several economic and political reforms to comply with European rules.
The country is also battling Russia, with no end in sight to a conflict that some have warned could become a “war of attrition.”
Ukraine had asked to join the 27-member European Union just days after Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania, who visited Kyiv in a show of solidarity Thursday, all threw their support behind Ukraine joining the EU. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had a “clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family.”
However, there are a number of other issues to take into account; not least the fact that several other nations are also keen to join.
Moldova, which borders Ukraine, and Georgia, which borders Russia and was partially invaded by the Kremlin in 2008, have also asked to join the bloc in the wake of the Russian invasion.
The commission also said that Moldova should become an EU membership candidate on Friday. However, the executive said Georgia needed to meet certain conditions first.