The European Union’s executive body is recommending that Ukraine be recognized as an official candidate for EU membership, another step in the long road to membership.
Ukraine, alongside border country Moldova, was granted candidate status by the European Commission on Friday on the condition that it improve its judicial system and establish anti-corruption bodies, among other governmental reforms. The country, which is fending off an invasion from Russia, has already implemented roughly 70% of EU rules, according to the commission president.
“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We want them to live with us the European dream.”
Meanwhile, Georgia’s membership was not greenlighted by the commission, setting heavier conditions on the country before it recommends it become an official candidate.
“Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU,” von der Leyen tweeted, adding that the commission recommends the country “grant the European perspective, but to come back and assess how it meets a number of conditions before granting it candidate status.”
The decision will now be left in the hands of the EU member states to determine whether Ukraine and Moldova can start the accession process, which could take months or years. Once accession is approved, the candidate country is required to adopt EU laws, economic systems, and any reforms stipulated before it can become a member.
Member states are expected to meet in Brussels next Thursday and Friday to discuss the countries’ candidacies.
Though several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, have signaled support for Ukraine joining the bloc, other countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal, have remained skeptical.
Several countries have spent years as candidate countries awaiting approval by the 27-country bloc, including North Macedonia, which received candidate status in 2005, and Albania, which was recommended as a candidate in 2014.
Croatia was the last country to join the EU, with its membership application process lasting a decade before it was declared a member in 2013.