EU leaders prepare to grant candidate status to Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — EU leaders are set to make Ukraine a candidate to join the 27-nation bloc on Thursday, the first step in a long and unpredictable journey toward full membership that could take years to navigate. Huh.

Making Ukraine a contender now appears to be a done deal as national leaders were initially divided over how quickly to accede to the war-torn country’s request to become a member of the European Union, which the Ukrainian government said in February to its neighbor. But it was presented only a few days after the invasion of Russia. 24.

Ukraine will receive the necessary unanimous approval for candidate status and the launch of eligibility talks, according to several diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a leaders’ summit in Brussels.

“This is a defining moment for the EU,” said European Council President Charles Michel, President of the EU Summit, describing the question of Ukraine’s candidacy as “a geopolitical choice that we will make today. “

Members of the European Parliament supported Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit began, voting to pass a resolution that calls on EU heads of state and government to “move forward without delay” and to “fulfill their historic responsibility”. ” calls for.

The 27 EU nations have united to support Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow. Although leaders were first divided over how quickly the EU should move to accept Ukraine as a member, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark are the most skeptical.

But Ukraine’s application received a boost last week when the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, gave its seal of approval based on the country’s responses to a questionnaire received in April and early May.

Ukraine received another shot in the arm when the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania visited the country and vowed to support their candidacy.

In another sign of how important the EU candidacy is for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke with 11 EU leaders on Wednesday, following calls with nine a day earlier. He said the meeting in Brussels would be a “historic session of the European Council”.

EU candidate status, however, does not confer an automatic right to join the bloc, and does not provide any security guarantees.

It is unlikely that membership talks can begin before next year, with the prospect of war going on for too long, adding to the uncertainty.

The initiation of accession discussions depends on Ukraine meeting the necessary political and economic conditions.

To be accepted, potential newcomers need to demonstrate that they meet standards on democratic principles and absorb a vast corpus of regulations. To help countries with candidate status, the bloc may provide technical and financial support throughout the negotiations, but may also decide to cancel the status if the necessary reforms are not implemented.

European officials have said that Ukraine has already implemented about 70% of EU rules, norms and standards, but they have also pointed to corruption and the need for deeper political and economic reforms in the country.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Cru said, “considerable efforts will be needed, especially in the fight against corruption and in establishing an effective rule of law.” “But I believe that it is the (post-war) reconstruction of Ukraine that will provide opportunities to take important steps forward.”

Leaders will debate on Thursday a recommendation to the European Commission to grant Moldova – a small, non-NATO country that borders Ukraine – EU candidate status. A stalled process of taking the Western Balkan countries on the membership path is also on the agenda of the summit.

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