Ukraine moves closer to EU membership

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Left to right, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive for a news conference in at Marinsky Palace in Kyiv on Thursday. Photo by Ludovic Marin/EPA-EFE

June 18 (UPI) — The European Commission has recommended that Ukraine become a membership candidate, bringing the former Soviet republic one step closer to fully joining the European Union.

The commission said in a statement Friday that Ukraine should be granted candidate status in light of its assessment of its political criteria, economic criteria and the ability of the country to assume the obligations of EU membership.

“Ukraine overall is well advanced in reaching the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities,” the commission found, according to the statement.

The commission also found that while the country still needs “ambitious structural economic reforms,” it has shown “macroeconomic and financial stability,” and has gradually come closer to the ability to assume the obligations of EU membership.

It said that Ukraine should be granted candidate status based on the these findings and the understanding that Ukraine would take the next steps to fulfill obligations.

Ukraine applied for membership to the European Union less than a week after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the decision as a landmark move that will help defeat the Russian invasion.

“It’s the first step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our victory closer,” Zelensky tweeted.

The commission also recommended Friday that Ukraine’s small, impoverished neighbor, Moldova, which applied for membership in early March, and has taken in hundreds of thousands of war refugees, be granted membership status for similar reasons.

It also said in the statement that Georgia, which also applied for membership in March, “should be granted candidate status once a number of priorities have been addressed, noting that “further reforms are need to improve functioning of its market economy.”

The commission said that its opinions will be discussed at the next European Council on Thursday and Friday.

“Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia share the strong and legitimate aspiration of joining the European Union,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement.

“Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances. And we do so standing firm in our European values and standards, setting out the path they need to follow in order to join the EU. The Commission’s opinions mark an inflection point in our relations. Indeed, this is a historic day for the people of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. We are confirming that they belong, in due time, in the European Union. The next steps are now in the hands of our Member States.”

A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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