European leaders give green light to Ukraine’s bid to join the EU

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The twenty-seven make a “historic” decision and send “a signal of support” to the country amid the Russian invasion

The Twenty-seven sent a clear message to Ukraine’s European perspective on Thursday with the formal approval of its status as a candidate country for accession to the European Union (EU). They did this without setting any deadlines, which made it clear that from now on the process will be subject to the merits and reforms that the country will carry out to adapt to the standards set by Brussels. The green light from European leaders has a political interpretation, as a sign of support for the Ukrainian people in the face of the Russian invasion.

The Brussels proposal foresees a review at the end of the year before discussing the next steps for Kiev. The European Council also accepted Moldova’s candidacy. This does not apply to Georgia, for whom the European countries and the Community Executive recognize its European aspirations, but calls for more in-depth reforms in order to consider its future accession to the EU.

The issue on Ukraine, the first of the leaders’ meeting, was resolved in the early stages of the European summit. Member States attended the meeting with broad agreement on Kiev’s candidacy, bypassing the traditional reticence of countries like France or Germany regarding European enlargement. As early as last week’s meeting of foreign ministers, foreign ministers showed a majority in favor of the country’s European ambitions.

The day before the summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to reach consensus with a telephone marathon, during which he spoke with 11 European leaders. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also urged the leaders of the Twenty-seven to “stand up” to the circumstances and support Kiev’s candidacy. Brussels, for its part, has demanded a series of national reforms to bring Ukraine closer to Europe. These include the establishment of an anti-corruption body and improvements in the rule of law protection.

Arriving at the European Council, its President Charles Michel assured that “it is a decisive moment, a geopolitical choice that will endanger the future of the European Union, our stability and prosperity”. The Irish Prime Minister stressed that the approval of Ukraine’s candidacy is a European “message of solidarity” to the Ukrainian people.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also considered granting candidate status to Ukraine “historic”, in addition to sending a “strong signal” amid the Russian invasion. “It doesn’t mean that joining Europe will happen soon, it will take a long time, but the signal is important,” he assured.

Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda described the day as a “happy day” because of the “very important political” support the European decision implies for the “pugnacity of Ukrainians”.

Ukraine’s application for membership has been processed in record time, something that has made the Western Balkans uneasy. Von der Leyen tried to calm things down, claiming that “there will be no shortcuts” for an aspiring country. The President of the European Council took advantage of his speech on Thursday to underline that “it is time to revitalize the accession process of the Western Balkans”.

Also on the table was the proposal launched by Emmanuel Macron in May to create “a European political community”, which would make it possible to form alliances with countries that defend European values. The idea is that the candidate countries can work more closely with the Member States while they wait to become full partners. However, this initiative is seen by some as an attempt to establish a double scale – between first- and second-class countries – in Europe.

Western Balkan leaders supported Ukraine’s bid, but Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Ukrainians to “have no illusions” about a process that could take decades. “North Macedonia has been a candidate for 17 years, if I haven’t lost count. Albania, for eight. So welcome, Ukraine,” he said ironically on his arrival in Brussels.

The anger of the leaders of the Balkan countries was evident at the end of the meeting ahead of the European summit, which they described as ‘historic in the negative’. The meeting did not lead to concrete progress in joining the community bloc after Bulgaria vetoed the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

Source: La Verdad

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