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European Commission recommends Ukraine EU candidate status

June 17, 2022

The executive body of the European Union has recommended that Ukraine be granted EU candidate status. A Ukrainian official told DW the move is a "tribute to the reforms" Kyiv has undergone in recent years.

Ursula von der Leyen ringing a bell
Ukraine has sought EU accession since 2014Image: Valeria Mongelli/Zumapress/dpa/picture alliance

The European Commission issued an opinion on Friday recommending that Ukraine be granted European Union candidate status.

"Ukraine has clearly demonstrated its aspiration and determination to live up to European values and standards," President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.

In a later tweet, von der Leyen said: "Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream."

The decision paves the way for EU government leaders to sign off on the recommendation at a Brussels summit next Thursday and Friday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the Commission's move, calling it a "historic decision."

"I commend the positive EU Commission conclusion on Ukraine's candidate status. Its the first step on the EU membership path that'll certainly bring our victory closer," he wrote on Twitter.

Kyiv has sought candidate status since 2014, but formally applied to join the bloc following Russia's invasion.

While the Commission's decision was largely praised, Latvian and German officials told DW that military support is what is still needed most urgently.

Moldova also backed for EU candidate status

The Commission on Friday also proposed making Moldova an EU membership candidate. The EU's executive said that this was premised on the understanding that the country would carry out reforms.

Von der Leyen said that Moldova  "is on a real pro-reform, anti-corruption and European path," adding, "It still has a long way to go. But we believe it has the potential to live up to the criteria."

The country shares a long stretch of border with Ukraine.

Von der Leyen said that in the case of Georgia, the country needed to "design a clear path towards structural reform" along with an assessment on how it would meet a number of conditions before granting candidate status.

Becoming an official candidate for membership is the first step in a load road to joining the EU.

But the designation would give Ukraine and Moldova access to financial support and economic reforms that would bring them closer to EU standards.

Ukraine: How close is EU membership?


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Kremlin observing developments in 'most careful way'

The Kremlin reacted cautiously to the news on Friday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin downplaying the development.

"We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It's the right of any country to join economic union," Putin said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a telephone briefing on Friday that Moscow is "observing in the most careful way."

Peskov said that the matter "requires our heightened attention," and that Moscow was monitoring what he described as the "strengthening of the defense component of the European Union."

One reason Russia gives to justify its so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine is supposed Western encroachment on its doorstep, which Moscow considers a threat to its security.

'Feeling of celebration' in Ukraine

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishnyna told DW that there is a "feeling of celebration" following the Commission's recommendation.

She noted "it's not the end of the story" as EU government leaders have to sign off on the recommendation at a Brussels summit later next week. 

"But for us, it's really important that the conclusion and the position announced by the European Commission was approved unanimously by the members of the European Commission," she said, calling the decision a "tribute to the reforms and the positive transformations we've been going through" in recent years.

'Maximum military support' is needed now

While progress on Ukraine's bid to become an EU member is a symbolic victory, Western allies need to quickly increase their military aid for Kyiv to put an end to the war, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told DW.

Pabriks, who is also Latvia's deputy prime minister, said that "every country in Europe, including Germany, should put a maximum military support for Ukraine."

While Ukraine's EU membership bid is an important step, and one that will take time before it is finalized, Pabriks said leaders in western Europe should understand that the war will also be drawn out as well.

"We simply must understand that this war will be longer than somebody wants and the Western societies must prepare for resilience, he said"

"Yes, it is painful. Yes, gas prices are rising, inflation is rising. But if you do not want to war yourself, help Ukraine now," he said.

The defense ministers thoughts were echoed by German lawmaker Marcus Faber, who told DW that what "Ukraine needs now is weapons and ammunition."

"In a war time, it's not the time to be cautious but to support the country that is attacked," said Faber, a member of the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) that is part of Germany's governing coalition.

"Germany is doing something, but Germany is a very important country in the European Union and I think it is able to do more."

rs, kb/msh (dpa, Reuters)