EU grants Ukraine candidate status in 'historic moment'

1 week ago 29

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - European leaders formally accepted Ukraine as a candidate to join the EU on Thursday (June 23), a bold geopolitical move triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine but a reminder that the 27-nation bloc will need a major overhaul as it looks to enlarge again.

Although it could take Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova more than a decade to qualify for membership, the decision at a two-day EU summit is symbolic step that signals the bloc's intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.

"A historic moment," European Council chief Charles Michel tweeted.

"Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU," he said, adding: "Our future is together."

The move, which also sees Moldova being granted candidate status, kick-starts the EU's most ambitious expansion since it welcomed Eastern European states after the Cold War.

"All the people in Ukraine are watching and waiting for this decision," said Ivan Zichenko, a 34-year-old Ukrainian from the devastated city of Kharkiv, who now lives in Brussels.

"It's very, very important to raise their morale," he said, as a few dozen people chanted "Ukraine is Europe" at a rally outside the Brussels building where EU leaders were meeting.

Behind the triumphant rhetoric, however, there is concern within the EU about how the bloc can remain coherent as it continues to enlarge.

After starting in 1951 as an organisation of six countries to regulate industrial production, the EU now has 27 members that face complex challenges from climate change and the rise of China to a war on their own doorstep.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his "special military operation" launched in Ukraine in late February was partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what Russia characterises as its rightful geographical sphere of influence.

The EU's green light "is a signal to Moscow that Ukraine, and also other countries from the former Soviet Union, cannot belong to the Russian spheres of influence," Ukraine's EU ambassador Chentsov Vsevolod told Reuters earlier on Thursday.

"There are Ukrainian soldiers calling home from the front line and asking:...

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