EU grants Ukraine and Moldova candidate status after speedy review

23 June 2022, 19:43 | Updated: 23 June 2022, 20:20

Ukraine and Moldova have been accepted as candidates to join the EU.
Ukraine and Moldova have been accepted as candidates to join the EU. Picture: Alamy/Facebook

By Emma Soteriou

European Union leaders have agreed to make Ukraine and Moldova candidates for EU membership after giving their bids a speedy review.

Ukraine applied for EU membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on February 24.

The decision by the leaders of the 27-nation bloc to grant Ukraine candidate status on Thursday was uncharacteristically rapid for the EU.

But the war and Ukraine's request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to its cause.

The EU also granted candidate status to Moldova, which borders Ukraine.

However, gaining membership could still take years or even decades.

Countries must meet a detailed host of economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles.

Ukraine will have to curb government corruption and adopt other reforms.

Once a country gains membership, it is covered under an EU treaty clause that says if a member falls victim to armed aggression, the other EU countries are obligated to assist it by all the means in their power.

But the main benefits of membership are economic, giving access to a market of 450 million consumers with free movement of labour, goods, services and capital.

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The European Parliament endorsed Ukraine's bid hours before the summit started, passing a resolution that called on EU governments to "move without delay" and "live up to their historical responsibility".

"It will strengthen Ukraine, it will strengthen Europe. It is a decision for freedom and democracy and puts us on the right side of history," European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said ahead of the final announcement.

The EU's nations have been united in backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion with money and weapons, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against the Kremlin.

EU candidate status does not give an automatic right to join the bloc and does not provide any immediate security guarantees.

Ukraine has long aspired to join Nato, too, but the military alliance is not about to offer an invitation, in part because of governmental corruption, shortcomings in the country's defence establishment, and its contested borders.

Before the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join Nato, which he has condemned for its eastward spread toward Russia's flank.

But earlier this month, he did not seem bothered by Ukraine's determination to get closer to the EU, saying it is not a military pact and thus "we have no objections".