Ukraine is a step closer to full European Union membership since its candidacy was accepted Friday, although a long process still lies ahead which will include key reforms to the country.
Today we have adopted the recommendation to the Council to give Ukraine a European perspective and the status of a candidate for membership of the Union, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained, dressed in Ukraine's flag yellow and blue.
She added that Ukraine has clearly demonstrated its aspiration and commitment to live up to European standards. It is a very strong parliamentary democracy, boasting excellent administration.
Ukraine has demonstrated a solid deficit level before the war, and it has already taken important steps towards being a functioning market economy, she also pointed out.
The Commission’s endorsement meant a strong sign of solidarity with Ukraine, even though it might still take years or even decades before EU membership materializes. Türkiye applied for membership in 1987, received candidate status in 1999, and had to wait until 2005 to start talks for actual entry.
Among the things yet to be done, Von der Leyen highlighted the rule of law, justice, the fight against corruption or moving away from the power of oligarchs over the economy.
Corruption is a problem we have been dealing with for a long time. The Ukrainian people elected this government because they wanted to tackle it and some progress has been made, but it is important to analyze the trajectory. In 2019 there was a drop, but there was new progress, she argued.
Ukraine must now focus on accelerating the selection of judges, she also explained. Von der Leyen, who traveled to Kyiv twice, assured that [President Volodimir] Zelensky has told us that even without the European accession process, the reforms called for by Brussels are necessary; that the Ukrainian people have shown to be ready to die for the European dream, insisted Von der Leyen says, who nevertehless stopped short of initiating a fast-track accession process.
“Once conditions are met, then we will have to come back and reflect on it … This is not for today,” EU Commissioner for the bloc’s enlargement Olivér Várhelyi explained.
Along with Ukraine, the European Commission also recommended giving Moldova EU candidate status, while Georgia’s application was put on hold pending a number of conditions.
Adding new members requires unanimous approval from all EU member nations. Potential newcomers need to abide by democratic principles and conditions regarding almost every aspect of daily life.
Ukraine currently has an association agreement with the EU, aimed at opening Ukraine’s markets and bringing it closer to Europe, including a comprehensive free trade deal.