On Friday, the EU approved Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership in the club, extending deep into the former Soviet Union for what would be a momentous geopolitical change as a result of Russia’s invasion. “Ukrainians are willing to die for the European viewpoint,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was dressed in Ukrainian colours: a yellow jacket over a blue top, at a press conference.
“We want them to share the European dream with us.” Despite the fact that this is merely the beginning of a long process, it puts Kyiv on track to achieve a goal that seemed unattainable only a few months ago.In February, four days after Russian forces rushed across the border, Ukraine sought to join the EU. Moldova and Georgia — smaller ex-Soviet states also dealing with separatist regions held by Russia — followed four days later.
“It’s the first step on the road to EU membership, and it will undoubtedly bring our victory closer,” President Voldymyr Zelensky tweeted. “Europe can construct a new history of freedom, and eventually remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia, precisely because of the bravery of the Ukrainians.”
One of President Vladimir Putin’s key goals in waging an invasion that has murdered thousands of people, damaged cities, and forced millions of people to flee was to stop the West from expanding eastward through the Nato military alliance.
The war’s opposite effect has been shown by Friday’s announcement: encouraging Finland and Sweden to join Nato, and now the EU to begin on its most ambitious expansion since embracing Eastern European members after the Cold War.
Putin downplayed the EU problem on Friday, stating, “We have nothing against it.” It isn’t a military confederation. Any country has the right to join an economic union.”
At a conference next week, EU leaders are anticipated to support the decision on membership candidacy. On Thursday, the leaders of the three largest European countries — Germany, France, and Italy — paid a visit to Kyiv, together with Romania’s president.
Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, praised the “strong signal of support for Moldova and our citizens” and stated that her government was dedicated to working hard on the issue. While the Commission recommended candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, it held off on Georgia, claiming that it must first meet other standards.
Ukraine would be the EU’s largest country by area and fifth most populous if entered. All three ex-Soviet aspirants are far poorer than any existing EU member, with per capita output roughly half that of Bulgaria, the current worst.
All three have a recent history of tumultuous politics, domestic instability, entrenched organised crime, and unsolved wars with Russian-backed separatists declaring statehood over territory defended by Moscow’s forces.