Ukraine will become an official candidate for European Union membership in a symbolic but morally stimulating decision after the Russian invasion, ministers and diplomats say.
EU leaders in Brussels are expected to sign last week’s recommendation from the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, on Thursday.
After several days of internal EU discussions, no opposition has emerged between the 27 member states, three diplomats told Reuters.
“We are working towards the point where we (Russian President Vladimir) tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends,” Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, told reporters before a meeting with other EU ministers.
Moldova will also almost certainly be granted candidate status, the diplomats said, although Georgia must meet conditions, namely that it must break the political deadlock in the country.
Despite some doubts among northern EU countries that taking Ukraine, which suffers from endemic corruption, is unrealistic, Denmark’s foreign minister said he welcomes the country’s candidacy status.
“It’s very good and it’s something that Denmark wholeheartedly supports; we want to help Ukraine achieve its European dream,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters in Luxembourg.
While the candidacy will mark a strategic shift of the EU eastward in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Kiev would likely take years to join the bloc, if at all.
Ukraine already has a free trade agreement with the EU, but signed up days after the Russian invasion. Moscow says its “special military operation” was necessitated in part by Western interference in what it characterizes as its rightful geographic sphere of influence.
Putin has so far downplayed the issue of Ukraine’s EU membership.