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Ukrainians wait for EU summit decision on candidacy EU awards Ukraine and Moldova candidate status
(about 2 hours later)
Ukrainians waited outside the EU summit building for the leaders to decide on their country's statusUkrainians waited outside the EU summit building for the leaders to decide on their country's status
Ukraine is set to be approved as an EU candidate at a leaders' summit in Brussels, after the European Commission gave the green light. Ukraine and Moldova have both been granted EU candidate status, President of the European Council Charles Michel has announced.
Ukraine applied days after the Russian invasion in February, and the process has since moved at a record speed. "Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU," Mr Michel said, describing the European Council's decision as a "historic moment".
Its ambassador to the EU told the BBC it would be a psychological boost for Ukrainians. Ukraine applied days after the Russian invasion in February, and the process moved at a record speed.
But Vsevolod Chentsov admitted "real integration" could only start when the war was over. Its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, hailed Thursday's decision.
Candidate status is the first official step towards EU membership and France said this week there was "total consensus" on Ukraine. "It's a unique and historical moment in UA[Ukraine]-EU relations..." he tweeted. "Ukraine's future is within the EU."
But it can take many years to join and there's no guarantee of success. Candidate status is the first official step towards EU membership. But it can take many years to join and there's no guarantee of success.
'Why should we wait?''Why should we wait?'
Several EU states have agreed to back Ukraine's candidacy, provided conditions are attached before accession negotiations can begin, including judicial and anti-corruption reforms. It's not clear when accession negotiations might start, but the European Commission president said the process would be "merit-based" and "by the book". The Commission is due to take stock at the end of 2022.
It's not clear when negotiations might start but the European Commission president said the process would be "merit-based" and "by the book". The Commission is due to take stock at the end of 2022. The step is undoubtedly be a big moment for Ukraine, and a popular one.
Moldova's application is also recommended for conditional approval while Georgia is set to be turned down, although the European Commission said the country could belong to the EU in "due time". While Moldova's application was accepted, a third former Soviet state, Georgia, has still to qualify for candidacy.
The step will undoubtedly be a big moment for Ukraine, and a popular one. Mr Michel said that the Council recognised the country's "European perspective" and was "ready to grant candidate status once the outstanding priorities are addressed".
President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken of his country's desire for candidate status in almost every speech over the past week. He knows that starting down the path of EU membership will permanently shift Ukraine out of Russia's sphere of influence. EU President Ursula von der Leyen said all three countries were "part of our European family".
"This decision strengthens us all," she tweeted.
"It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, in the face of Russian imperialism. And it strengthens the EU. Because it shows once again to the world that we are united and strong in the face of external threats."
President Zelensky spoke of his country's desire for candidate status in almost every speech over the past week. He knows that starting down the path of EU membership will permanently shift Ukraine out of Russia's sphere of influence.
Four EU leaders travelled to Kyiv last Thursday to give their blessing to Ukraine's bid for candidacyFour EU leaders travelled to Kyiv last Thursday to give their blessing to Ukraine's bid for candidacy
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters the EU's political backing was very important for Ukrainians: "This is the least we can provide for them."Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters the EU's political backing was very important for Ukrainians: "This is the least we can provide for them."
Outside the summit building, activist Anna Melenchuk from Kyiv told the BBC: "People I know are dying every day at the hands of Russian soldiers. This is why it's so important to have the European Union's support."Outside the summit building, activist Anna Melenchuk from Kyiv told the BBC: "People I know are dying every day at the hands of Russian soldiers. This is why it's so important to have the European Union's support."
It was pro-EU protests that ousted Ukraine's Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.It was pro-EU protests that ousted Ukraine's Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
That event in turn led to the annexation of Crimea and the separatist uprisings, the events that Ukrainians see as the start of the current war.That event in turn led to the annexation of Crimea and the separatist uprisings, the events that Ukrainians see as the start of the current war.
How will Russia react?How will Russia react?
The Kremlin knew this was on the cards and has already been acting as if it's no big deal.The Kremlin knew this was on the cards and has already been acting as if it's no big deal.
Last week in St Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin claimed he had "nothing against" Ukraine's possible membership of the European Union: "It's their sovereign decision to join economic unions or not."Last week in St Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin claimed he had "nothing against" Ukraine's possible membership of the European Union: "It's their sovereign decision to join economic unions or not."
He said it, but did he mean it? It is hard to believe Russia's president would sit back and watch the country he invaded join the European Union.He said it, but did he mean it? It is hard to believe Russia's president would sit back and watch the country he invaded join the European Union.
President Putin once described Russians and Ukrainians as "one people, a single whole" and views Ukraine as a territory that, historically, belongs to Russia. The Russian invasion is widely seen as his attempt to force Ukraine back into Moscow's orbit, and he shows no sign of ending the offensive.President Putin once described Russians and Ukrainians as "one people, a single whole" and views Ukraine as a territory that, historically, belongs to Russia. The Russian invasion is widely seen as his attempt to force Ukraine back into Moscow's orbit, and he shows no sign of ending the offensive.
EU candidate status for Ukraine sends a strong message to Moscow: that neither Kyiv nor Brussels accepts the Putin vision of a new European order.EU candidate status for Ukraine sends a strong message to Moscow: that neither Kyiv nor Brussels accepts the Putin vision of a new European order.
But he will be aware that the road from candidate status to EU member is a long one. Along the way Ukraine will face plenty of hurdles - quite likely many put there by Russia.But he will be aware that the road from candidate status to EU member is a long one. Along the way Ukraine will face plenty of hurdles - quite likely many put there by Russia.
Balkan frustrationBalkan frustration
The long process of joining the EU frustrated Western Balkan leaders at a separate Brussels summit on Thursday.The long process of joining the EU frustrated Western Balkan leaders at a separate Brussels summit on Thursday.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Kyiv to be under no illusions: "North Macedonia is a candidate [for] 17 years if I have not lost count, Albania eight, so welcome to Ukraine."Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Kyiv to be under no illusions: "North Macedonia is a candidate [for] 17 years if I have not lost count, Albania eight, so welcome to Ukraine."
Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski expressing his "dissatisfaction" at the lack of progress in their own bids to join the EU. Bulgaria is effectively blocking North Macedonia and Albania's membership bids while other countries have yet to make the necessary reforms. North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski expressed his "dissatisfaction" at the lack of progress in their own bids to join the EU.
Bulgaria is effectively blocking North Macedonia and Albania's membership bids while other countries have yet to make the necessary reforms.
Georgians took part in a "March for Europe" on Monday night, but the Commission said Georgia was not ready for candidate statusGeorgians took part in a "March for Europe" on Monday night, but the Commission said Georgia was not ready for candidate status
Some EU diplomats have previously voiced concerns that giving Ukraine candidate status could offer false hope.Some EU diplomats have previously voiced concerns that giving Ukraine candidate status could offer false hope.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in May that the prospect of membership was decades away and the Nato secretary general has warned the conflict could last years.French President Emmanuel Macron said in May that the prospect of membership was decades away and the Nato secretary general has warned the conflict could last years.
"We do not accept the idea of the queue," Ukraine's EU envoy told the BBC, pointing to work carried out since the EU and Ukraine signed an association agreement in 2014."We do not accept the idea of the queue," Ukraine's EU envoy told the BBC, pointing to work carried out since the EU and Ukraine signed an association agreement in 2014.
Macron plan for broader EU communityMacron plan for broader EU community
As well as deciding on candidate status, EU leaders were also due to discuss food security in light of Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports, condemned by the EU's foreign policy chief this week as a war crime.As well as deciding on candidate status, EU leaders were also due to discuss food security in light of Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports, condemned by the EU's foreign policy chief this week as a war crime.
They were also considering President Macron's proposal for a wider "European Political Community", to include countries waiting to join the EU or even those that have left, which would currently just include the UK.They were also considering President Macron's proposal for a wider "European Political Community", to include countries waiting to join the EU or even those that have left, which would currently just include the UK.
Although a number of EU diplomats have rejected the idea as half-baked, the Ukrainian ambassador did not dismiss the idea out of hand. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said her preference would be to build on existing structures such as the G7 and Nato.Although a number of EU diplomats have rejected the idea as half-baked, the Ukrainian ambassador did not dismiss the idea out of hand. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said her preference would be to build on existing structures such as the G7 and Nato.
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