The European Union has agreed to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, setting in motion a potentially yearslong process that could pull the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West. Ukraine applied for EU membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on Feb. 24. The decision by the leaders of the 27-nation bloc to grant Ukraine candidate status Thursday was uncharacteristically rapid for the EU, the AP reports. But the war and Ukraine’s request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to its cause. Ukraine applied for EU membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on Feb. 24.
Gaining membership could take years or even decades. Countries must meet a detailed host of economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles. Ukraine will have to curb government corruption and adopt other reforms. “It will strengthen Ukraine, it will strengthen Europe,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said before the announcement. “It is a decision for freedom and democracy and puts us on the right side of history.” The European Parliament endorsed Ukraine’s bid. The EU also granted candidate status to Moldova, which borders Ukraine.
EU candidate status doesn’t include an automatic right to join the bloc and doesn’t provide any immediate security guarantees. Once a country gains membership, however, it is covered under an EU treaty clause that says if a member falls victim to armed aggression, the other EU countries are obligated to assist it by all means in their power. The main benefits of EU membership are economic, since it gives access to a market of 450 million consumers with free movement of labor, goods, services, and capital.
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