The EU gives the greatest show of support for Ukraine by endorsing its candidacy for the community bloc | International
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The leaders of the European Union have recognized this Thursday that the fate of Ukraine is linked to that of the community bloc. The Twenty-seven have decided at a summit in Brussels to give the greatest show of support to the Eastern neighbor by granting it the status of a candidate country for EU membership. The gesture is loaded with symbolism towards a State broken by war since the invasion orchestrated by Russia exactly 120 days ago, and is the starting signal for a very long and complex process to become a full member of the Union family. . Moldova, which has followed in the footsteps opened by kyiv shortly after the start of the contest, has also obtained the same recognition.
“Agreement. The European Council has just decided on the EU candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova”, announced the President of the Council, Charles Michel, through social networks. “A historic moment. A crucial step is taken today on their path to the EU”, he added. “Our future is to be together.”
The EU thus picks up the gauntlet of the European Commission, which recommended taking the step a week ago, but under the demand that kyiv undertake far-reaching reforms in fields ranging from the independence of the judiciary to the fight against the economic control of oligarchs and corruption in the country.
The text of conclusions adopted this Thursday by the Heads of State and Government in the European Council, a thoughtful written formula agreed upon by the leaders and which serves to set the political course of the Union, calls on the European Commission to report on the Ukraine’s progress. “The Council will decide the steps to follow once all these conditions are met,” the text adds. Georgia, which also claimed its candidacy shortly after the invasion began, falls out of the group: a European perspective is recognized, but the EU will only decide on its case once it takes charge of a list of conditions.
“The decision we have taken today strengthens us all,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive arm, in an appearance after reaching the agreement. “It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in the face of Russian aggression. And it strengthens the EU because it once again shows the world that it is united and strong in the face of external threats”. The Commission will be in charge of periodically reviewing the fulfillment of the conditions to be fulfilled by the candidates, and has promised to present the first report on Ukraine by the end of 2022, according to the communication published last week.
“It is a unique and historic moment in relations between Ukraine and the EU”, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky, has reacted immediately, describing the decision as “one of the most important for Ukraine in the 30 years of independence”. “However, this decision is not only for Ukraine. This is the biggest step towards strengthening Europe that could be taken right now, when the Russian war is testing our ability to preserve freedom and unity,” he added. “I am grateful to Von der Leyen and Michel and the rest of the EU leaders for their support.”
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Emmanuel Macron, president of France, the country that holds the presidency of the Union this semester, has also searched for words at the height of the history books. “Today a very strong message is being sent, consistent with what our Europe has been able to do since the first day of the conflict”, he pointed out in an appearance together with the President of the Council and the Commission. “React quickly, historic and united. With sanctions two days later, through macroeconomic and military support and, now, through this political gesture”, he underlined.
If it adheres, something that could take years (Turkey was touched with this same wand more than two decades ago, in the already distant December 1999), Ukraine would be the largest country in terms of area in the Union, a true agricultural power, albeit severely currently affected by the Russian invasion. And it would add 44 million inhabitants to the block, according to the census prior to the war.
The road could be very long, kyiv still has to complete many milestones to even begin negotiations to join the club, but for Ukraine, which years ago consecrated its turn towards the West and where the majority of the population is pro-European, according to polls, it is a symbolic and backup step.
The decision of the leaders of the Twenty-seven is also a “gesture of trust” towards Ukraine, stressed Vsevolod Chentsov, Ukrainian ambassador to the EU; a wink that he can undertake the reforms that are asked of him and that he is on the right track.
kyiv, however, reiterates that it needs more weapons to resist Russian aggression and sources from the Cabinet of Volodímir Zelenski – who has been embarking on a marathon of phone calls with his EU counterparts for two days to force himself towards the candidacy – slip that The 9,000 million euros that Brussels plans to unlock as new macro-financial assistance to Ukraine is an amount much less than its needs. The director of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, has estimated at one billion euros the amount that Ukraine needs to repair the damage caused by the Russian invasion.
With the war very focused on Donbas (east of the country), in an increasingly bloody battle, for the Zelensky government it is also important to start paving the way for the required reforms in the areas of justice, the fight against corruption and good governance as soon as possible. . Faced with a war that could stall and drag on, the Ukrainian leader, an outward symbol of resistance to Russian aggression, could be hit if fatigue and boredom set in. The candidacy and the work to comply with the reforms give him bellows.
The debate in Brussels has not been easy. Countries that until recently had been opposed to Ukraine’s candidacy, such as Austria, have reconsidered and reversed their reluctance, but have instead demanded an express mention of the countries of the Western Balkans. The leaders of this region have starred in a tense morning in Brussels: after a meeting with the Twenty-seven that served as a starter for the summit, the leaders of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia have shown their anger at an accession process that has taken years stalled, as they watch Ukraine and Moldova approach the club on the fast track. Vienna, for example, wants “the EU’s gaze not to be directed only to the East, bypassing the Balkans,” explains a diplomatic source familiar with the discussions.
In January, before the invasion, Ukraine’s candidacy seemed a long way off. However, for kyiv it has been a matter of survival. A few days after Putin launched the full-scale war, President Zelensky submitted the request. And from there, although behind the scenes he has encountered the reluctance of countries closer to Moscow —such as Hungary— and of others who wanted clearer conditions and requirements, everything has gone smoothly for the Ukrainian leader. Giving candidate status to the country ravaged by war and in which the invasion ordered by Putin continues to wreak havoc, Zelensky has repeated over and over again about the historic step, means that the EU attends to the “longing of Ukrainian citizens to be part of the European family.
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