The European Council agreed on Thursday at an EU summit to grant Ukraine and Moldova candidate country status. The news was announced by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
“The European Council has granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate country status. Historic moment and a signal of hope for the Ukrainian (sic) people,” Bettel tweeted.
Earlier in the day, the European Parliament backed an overwhelming proposal to grant candidate country candidate status to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Last week, Kiev’s bid was backed by the European Commission.
Ahead of the summit, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo indicated that granting Ukraine EU candidate status was an important “symbolic messageto support Kiev amid the ongoing conflict with Russia. However, actual EU membership is still “many yearsgone and the country must first meet European standards, he explained.
“This does not mean that Ukraine will soon become part of the European Union. It is a process of many years with many reforms that will be very difficult and for us it is very important to send a strong symbolic signal.” De Croo stated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the EU’s decision to grant the country candidate status and called the development a “unique and historic” moment.
“Sincere congratulations for the decision of EU leaders on [the European Council summit] to grant Ukraine candidate status. It is a unique and historic moment in relations between Ukraine and the EU.” Zelensky tweeted.
While attaining EU membership has been one of the main talking points for pro-Western Ukrainian politicians for decades, Kiev had made little or no real progress on that path. The drive to join the bloc received significant new impetus after Russia launched a large-scale military operation against Ukraine in late February.
Russia attacked the neighboring state after Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and the eventual recognition by Moscow of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols brokered by Germany and France were designed to give the breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself as a neutral country that will never join NATO’s US-led military bloc. Kiev maintains that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and denies that it intended to retake the two republics by force.
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