EU clears path to granting Ukraine ‘candidate status’

EU officials said Tuesday that there was no opposition within the 27-nation bloc to granting war-torn Ukraine “candidate status”, ahead of a summit expected to green light the move.

The bloc’s executive arm last week proposed taking the symbolic first step to put Ukraine on the years-long path towards EU membership in a strong sign of support as Kyiv battles Russia’s military onslaught.

A two-day summit from Thursday looks set to approve the move to formally name Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova “candidates” to start negotiations on joining.

“There is not a single country which makes problems with the proposal,” said Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn at a meeting with EU counterparts in his country’s capital.

“We will show great unanimity.”

The EU is expected to impose conditions on Ukraine and Moldova over judicial reforms and tackling corruption, among other issues, before they could move on to formal entry negotiations.

It would then take years – if not decades – of painstaking evaluations before Ukraine would get close to becoming an actual member.

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Georgia, which also applied for membership in Ukraine’s slipstream, looks likely to be told it needs to carry out further reforms before it can become a candidate.

Momentum has picked up for the EU to open the door to Ukraine after the leaders of heavyweights France, Germany and Italy threw their heft behind the move on a visit to Kyiv last week.

Three EU diplomats told AFP that no countries raised objections at a meeting of the bloc’s ambassadors on Monday.

More sceptical nations such as the Netherlands and Denmark have said they will back the move provided it is made clear that reforms are needed.

“We want to help the Ukrainians to reach the European dream and granting candidate status is a step and an encouragement to do that,” said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

“It’s also true that that there’s a lot of obligations that have to be fulfilled.”

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