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Ukraine Wins Candidate Status in Bid for EU Membership

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The EU voted to grant Ukraine candidate status in its bid to join the union. Above, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is shown in a security council meeting. Credit: UN TV

Ukraine has been given candidate status for membership into the EU, putting the war-torn country on a path for approval that could take years.

European Union leaders voted without opposition on Thursday, moving the country one step closer to its long-desired wish to join the now 27-member body. It also gave candidate status to Moldova, an Eastern European nation sharing a border with Ukraine.

The decision on Ukraine came one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signaled the body’s support. “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” she said during a news conference.

It also comes as Ukraine continues to defend against the Russian invasion with June 24th marking four months to the day since it began.

In a Twitter message following the vote, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the country’s candidate status “a unique and historical moment” in EU-Ukraine relations and added that “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”

Ukraine EU Bid Could Take Years

While the country has long wanted to join the EU, Ukraine applied for membership a week after Russia invaded. Its candidate status is a significant step forward, but experts say formal membership may still be years away. The process involves meeting specific political and economic benchmarks.

Ukraine is well on its way, having cleared nearly three quarters of the requirements, but persistent problems, including corruption, will slow the process.

While, last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he did not object to Ukraine’s move for EU membership, this week, the government is singing a different tune. “We consider the EU enlargement process to be negative—hostile, in fact—in relation to Russian national interests,” Russia’s ambassador to the bloc, Vladimir Chizhov told a state-run newspaper, according to The New York Times.

In a bit of life imitating art, a 2015 video clip from then-actor Zelensky’s Servant of the People series is again making the rounds. Having gone from high school teacher to president of Ukraine in the show, Zelensky is seen in his role taking a call from then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the call, she tells him Ukraine has been accepted into the EU.

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