European Commission supports Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc

Speaking in Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the commission recommends “granting Ukraine candidate status. This is of course based on the understanding that the country will implement a number of additional reforms.”

“From the Commission’s point of view, Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspirations and determination to live up to European values ​​and standards.”

“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream,” von der Leyen concluded.

The commission also recommended placing a candidate for Ukraine’s neighboring Moldova, but not Georgia, until it fulfills other conditions. Leaders of the 27 member states of the European Union will meet at a summit next week to discuss their views.

Even if member states agree that Ukraine should be a candidate country – which is far from certain – the EU accession process is complex and takes, on average, just less than five years to complete, according to the think tank, The United Kingdom in a Changing Europe.

During a joint press conference in Kyiv on Thursday with the three main political leaders of the European Union, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia’s attack on his country amounts to an attack on all countries. . Europe.

He added that the best way to demonstrate our “common and strong position” is by supporting Ukraine’s integration into the European Union, adding that its status as a candidate for EU membership “could historically magnify freedom in Europe and become one of the major European decisions of the first third of the 21st century.”

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Zelensky said that Ukraine is ready to work towards becoming a full member of the European Union: “We understand that the path to the European Union is really a path and not a single step. But this path must begin, and we are ready to work for that our country has turned into a full member Membership in the European Union, and the Ukrainians have already earned the right to embark on this path. ”

Macron later said that the prospect of Ukraine being granted EU candidate status was a result of the Russian invasion. He was speaking in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV Friday on a train leaving Ukraine.

After his visit to Kyiv, he said: “Ukraine should not normally be a candidate, we do it because of the war and because we think it is good.

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

While Macron said most Western European countries supported the plan, he said, “We have countries that are more conservative.”

The French leader added that the issue of Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership would be decided at the European Council summit next Thursday and Friday.

“There is a long way to go to join the European Union,” he added.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal expressed his gratitude for the European Commission’s decision. “Grateful to vonderleyen for this decision!” He said via Twitter. It will speed up the whole process [Ukrainian] merge into [European] The internal market is effectively accompanying the recovery of #Ukraine by EU standards.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia “has nothing against Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.”

“The European Union is not a military-political bloc, unlike NATO, so we have always said and I have always said that our position here is consistent and understandable and we have nothing against it,” Putin said during a panel discussion. after his speech At the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“It is a sovereign decision for any country to join the economic unions or not, and it is up to this economic association to accept new countries as its members or not. As far as it is convenient for the EU, let the EU countries decide. Whether it is in the interests of Ukraine Or at her expense, that’s their business, too.”

what happened after that?

Ukraine will now meet the Copenhagen Criteria, a vague triad of requirements that the EU must satisfy a candidate country to enter into appropriate accession negotiations. They focus on whether or not this country has a functioning free market economy, whether state institutions are qualified to uphold European values ​​such as human rights and the EU’s interpretation of the rule of law and whether the country has a functioning and inclusive democracy.

There are also real concerns that Ukraine is still a long way from meeting the Copenhagen benchmarks anytime soon. According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine ranks 122nd in its list of 180 countries. For comparison, Russia ranks 136th.

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

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Then, when the leaders of the EU member states agree, it must then be ratified in the EU Parliament and the legislative branches of the government of each member state.

Ukraine formally applied to join the European Union on February 28, just four days after the start of the invasion of Russia. Zelensky said at the time that the bloc should “urgently recognize Ukraine using a new procedure…Our goal is to be with all Europeans and be on an equal footing with them. I’m sure we deserve it. I’m sure it’s possible.”

Before the start of the war, Zelensky said that Ukraine would also like to join NATO. However, in the months that followed, the idea subsided after it emerged that the coalition was not willing to accept Kyiv any time soon.

“I personally asked them to say directly that we will accept you joining NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no,” Zelensky said. “The response was very clear, you will not be a member of NATO, but publicly the doors will remain open,” he said.

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

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