The EU Commission supports Ukraine’s offer to join the bloc

Speaking in Brussels, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the Commission recommends “that Ukraine be granted candidate status. This obviously on the condition that the country will implement a series of further reforms”.

“According to the Commission, Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and determination to live up to European values ​​and standards.”

Von der Leyen concluded his statement by saying: “We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live the European dream with us.”

The Commission has also recommended candidate status for its Ukrainian neighbor Moldova, but not Georgia, until further conditions are met. The leaders of the 27 EU member states will now meet for a summit next week to discuss his opinion.

While member states agree that Ukraine should be a candidate nation – which is far from certain – the EU accession process is complicated and takes, on average, just under five years to complete. , according to the think tank, the UK in a changing Europe

On Thursday, during a joint press conference in Kiev with the three main political leaders of the EU, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack of the Russia to his country is tantamount to an attack on all of Europe.

He added that the best way to demonstrate “our common and strong position” is to support Ukraine’s integration into the EU, adding that its status as an EU candidate “can amplify freedom in Europe historically and become one of the key European decisions of the first third of the 21st century “.

Zelensky said Ukraine is ready to work towards becoming a full member of the EU: “We understand that the path to the European Union is indeed a path and not a step. But this path must start and we are ready. to work so that our state has become a full member of the European Union and the Ukrainians have already earned the right to take this path “.

Macron later said that the possible granting of EU candidate status to Ukraine was the result of the invasion of Russia. He was speaking in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV on Friday aboard a train departing from Ukraine.

“Normally Ukraine shouldn’t be a candidate,” he said after his visit to Kiev, “we are doing it because of the war and because we think it’s good.

“It is a sign of hope, it is a message for Ukraine to say that I am in the European family,” he said.

While Macron said most of Western Europe is in favor of the plan, “We have more reticent countries,” he said.

The French leader added that the question of Ukraine’s candidacy to the EU will be decided at the European Council summit next Thursday and Friday.

“The path is long to join the EU,” he added.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal expressed his gratitude for the EC’s decision. “Grateful to @vonderleyen for this decision!” he said via Twitter. “It will speed up the flood process [Ukrainian] integration into [European] internal market and effectively accompany the recovery of # Ukraine according to EU standards. “

The Kremlin said the development requires Moscow’s “increased attention”. “We all know about the intensification in Europe and the discussions on strengthening the defense component of the EU. Therefore, there are several transformations that we observe,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a daily phone call with reporters.

What happens next?

Ukraine will now work to meet the Copenhagen criteria, an opaque trio of requirements that the EU must meet a candidate state has met in order to start the proper accession negotiations. They focus on whether or not that country has a functioning free market economy, whether the country’s institutions are fit to uphold European values ​​such as human rights and the EU’s interpretation of the rule of law, and whether the country has an inclusive and functioning democracy.

There are also real concerns that Ukraine is far from meeting the Copenhagen criteria anytime soon. According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, Ukraine ranks 122 on its list of 180 countries. For comparison, Russia is in 136th place.

Once the country is deemed to have met these criteria, the EU’s 35 negotiation chapters can begin, the last three of which return to some areas of the Copenhagen criteria.

Then, when the leaders of the EU member states have agreed, it will then have to be ratified by the European Parliament and the legislative branches of the government of each member state.

Ukraine formally applied for EU membership on February 28, just four days after the start of its invasion by Russia. Zelensky said at the time that the bloc must “urgently admit Ukraine using a new procedure … our goal is to be with all Europeans and be equal. I’m sure we deserve it. I’m sure it’s possible. “

Before the war began, Zelensky said Ukraine would also like to join NATO. However, in the months that followed, he cooled down the idea after it seemed the alliance was unwilling to admit Kiev anytime soon.

“I asked them personally to say directly that we will accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, say it directly and clearly, or just not,” Zelensky said. “And the answer was very clear, you will not be a NATO member, but publicly the doors will remain open,” he said.

Joseph Ataman, Camille Knight, Anna Chernova, and CNN’s Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.