Ukraine becomes EU candidate

EU leaders awarded Ukraine and Moldova as candidates in a show of strong support, calling it a “historic moment”.

Leaders of the European Union (EU) countries decided to grant candidate status to Ukraine and neighboring Moldova during a summit in Brussels, Belgium on June 23.

“A historic moment. Today marks an important step on your path towards the European Union (EU),” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted during the summit. “Our future is together shoulder to shoulder.”

Leaders of the EU and Western Balkan countries pose for a photo together while attending a summit in Brussels, Belgium on June 23.  Photo: Reuters.

Leaders of the EU and Western Balkan countries pose for a photo together while attending a summit in Brussels, Belgium on June 23. Image: Reuters.

After Russia launched a military campaign in late February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an application to join the EU and asked the bloc to give an answer on Kiev’s candidacy before the end of this month.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the move to grant Ukraine candidate status sent a “very strong signal” to the Kremlin that the EU supported Kiev’s pro-Western aspirations. “We are indebted to the people of Ukraine, who are fighting to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and also our values,” Macron said.

Minutes after the EU’s decision, President Zelensky tweeted that it was “a historic and unique moment in Ukraine-EU relations, the beginning of a new page in European history”, adding that “the future of Ukraine” located in the EU” and “Europe without divisions”.

“Today, EU leaders made one of the most important decisions for Ukraine during the 30 years of our state’s independence,” Zelensky said in a message to the leaders of 27 countries. EU, referring to the time when Ukraine declared independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “This is our victory. We’ve been waiting for it for 120 days.”

President Zelensky affirmed that Ukraine will win the conflict with Russia, rebuild the country and rest.

“Or maybe we will even win, rebuild our country, join the EU and then rest. Or maybe we won’t rest,” he added, adding that “we certainly are.” will win”.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said via video that “today marks the beginning of the long journey that we will walk together”.

“Ukrainian people belong to the European family. Ukraine’s future is with the EU. We stand together for peace. Ukraine will prevail. Europe will prevail,” he said.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also called the EU’s decision a “historic day” and “a new phase in European construction”.

The EU’s decision places the two former Soviet states at the beginning of a years-long accession path that will require major reforms and lengthy negotiations. The EU has set out a series of steps for Kiev to take, including strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption, before it can move on to the next stage including accession negotiations.

The negotiation process can take years and even decades to assess thoroughly before Ukraine or Moldova can become an EU member.

Ukraine became an EU candidate amid fierce fighting in the east, as Russian forces stepped up their offensive to control the entire Lugansk province. The two cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in Lugansk have become the “umbrella of fire” of Russian artillery in the past few weeks. Ukrainian officials said on June 23 that Ukrainian forces may have to withdraw from Lysychansk to avoid encirclement.

If Russia captures these two cities, Russia will completely control the Lugansk province, thereby creating a springboard to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, a city in the Donetsk Oblast. These will be the final goals for Russia to complete the goal of “liberating” the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

Huyen Le (Theo AFP, Reuters)

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