EU leaders make Ukraine a candidate for membership

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BRUSSELS – European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to nominate Ukraine for membership in the bloc, a symbolic victory for Kiev amid the war with Russia and another sign of how the conflict is reshaping the world.

Candidate status does not confer membership, which may still be decades away. But the decision Historic move for Europe – and it sends a signal to Moscow.

The heads of state and government, meeting in Brussels for the two-day summit of the European Council, also agreed to run for membership in Moldova. Ukraine and Moldova Both will be required to meet certain conditions as candidates to proceed. The leaders said Georgia would become a candidate after meeting other conditions.

“This is a defining moment and a very good day for Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference in Brussels. “It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in the face of Russian aggression and strengthens the European Union.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the news. “I sincerely commend the decision of the EU leaders,” he said chirp.

The Kremlin claims that Ukraine, A sovereign state, which is not a real state and wants to bring it into the sphere of influence of Moscow by force. The path to membership in the bloc sends a message that Ukraine is a very real country with a future of its choosing, said Vsevolod Chintsov, head of Ukraine’s mission to the European Union.

For Ukrainians exhausted by months of fighting, Chintsov said this week, placing the EU candidate is a “gesture of confidence,” and a signal that “the EU believes Ukraine can do it.”

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Leaders, diplomats and officials expressed surprise that member states were finally able to agree on Ukraine, as well as Moldova and Georgia, after years of debate and deadlock.

“Just a few months ago, I was really skeptical that we would ever reach this position,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Thursday. “I am very happy to have us there.”

An EU official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talks, said the bloc’s leaders had moved more toward expansion in the past two weeks “than in the past 25 years”.

The decision comes at a difficult time for Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities announced, Thursday, that the Russian forces made further gains south of the eastern city of Lyschansk, which caused the emergence of defensive forces. to reposition it to avoid being encircled.

The fall of the settlements of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka followed Russia’s seizure of the strategic village of Toshkivka earlier in the week. Much of the battered twin city of Lysekhansk, Severodonetsk, is under Russian control as Moscow seeks to occupy the entire Luhansk Province.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister said Thursday that the country has received a batch of M142 High Mobility Artillery Missile Systems, known as HIMARS, from the United States. US officials say the weapons will allow Ukrainian forces to fire multiple missiles at Russian artillery and forces quickly and accurately.

The news from Brussels provided a moral boost to the Ukrainians. Ukraine will prevail. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a video message.

He continued, “Today marks the beginning of a long journey that we will walk together.” Ukrainian people belong to the European family. Ukraine’s future with the European Union”.

Ukraine has long sought to join the European Union. Days after the war, Zelensky called for a highway to membership, and considered running a matter of survival. While the Baltic states and other Eastern European countries supported the idea, many member states opposed it.

During the spring, the leaders of those countries seemed happy to pose with Zelensky, but were reluctant to offer Ukraine a path to membership.

“None of the 27 will say correctly in the face of the president ‘no,’” Olha Stefanichina, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration in Ukraine, told the Washington Post on a June 9 visit to Brussels. Behind the scenes is a clear willingness to put obstacles in the process.”

Zelensky pressured EU leaders to do more. In a speech on June 10, he said that awarding Ukrainian candidate status “will prove that words about the Ukrainian people’s longing to be part of the European family are not just words.” The next day, von der Leyen made a surprise visit to Kyiv to finalize her assessment of the country’s candidacy.

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As von der Leyen continued to promote Ukraine’s readiness, Ukrainian diplomats toured European capitals to keep up the pressure. Some naysayers began, worried that they would be seen as standing in the way of Ukraine To downplay their previous suspicions.

Last week, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy visited Kyiv and expressed their support for Ukraine’s candidacy. The next day, the commission recommended placing the candidate. By the beginning of this week, EU diplomats described it as a “done deal”.

But the same diplomats warn that there is a long way to go. The committee laid out six steps for Ukraine to meet before it could move forward. Among them: the application of laws to ensure the selection of qualified judges. reduce the effect of oligophrenia; and improve its track record of investigations, prosecutions and convictions related to corruption.

With fighting intensifying in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials acknowledge that it will be difficult to move forward with some reforms. “There will inevitably be issues that need to be addressed after the shooting stops,” Chintsov said.

The challenges are not limited to Ukraine. Although the EU countries have decided to open a path to three-state membership, the desire for enlargement remains modest. Member states, having made a token gesture, may look for ways to slow things down.

Turkey applied in 1987 and is still a candidate. Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia have been involved in membership talks with the European Union for years.

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And draft summit conclusions obtained by The Washington Post suggest that Ukraine’s membership could depend on the bloc’s “ability” to “absorb new members.” Some want to reform the EU’s decision-making process before allowing any new arrivals in.

If Ukraine joined now, it would become the fifth most populous member state, and the poorest. Ukraine’s per capita GDP last year was $4,872, less than half that of its current poorest member, Bulgaria, at $11,683, according to Estimates from the International Monetary Fund.

Some countries, particularly in Western Europe, remain concerned that a large new member could further complicate decision-making and tip the balance of power toward Central and Eastern Europe.

The leaders plan to meet again on Friday to discuss the impact of the Russian war on the economy. Germany on Thursday raised the country’s alert level under its emergency gas plan as Russia scaled back shipments to Europe.

World leaders, including President Biden, are due to meet in Madrid next week for a NATO summit focused on the war in Ukraine and the alliance’s future.