The European Commission recommended on Friday (June 17) that the European Union designate Ukraine as a candidate for membership, a milestone in its path from a former Soviet republic towards a developed economy in the world’s largest trading bloc.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, is almost certain to oppose the political gesture by Brussels as unwelcome meddling in what it sees as its area of influence, even if Ukraine already has a free-trade agreement with the bloc.
“The Commission recommends to the Council, first that Ukraine is given European perspective and second that Ukraine is given candidate status. This is of course on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further important reforms,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference, dressed in Ukraine’s national colours of a yellow jacket and blue shirt.
“Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards,” she said.
While some EU countries including the Netherlands and Denmark do not support more countries becoming EU membership candidates, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy won the backing of France, Germany, Italy and Romania on Thursday (June 16).
The decision by the Commission, the EU executive, will pave the way for EU government leaders to sign off on it at a summit next Thursday and Friday in Brussels in what will be a morale boost for Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion.
The Kremlin says what it calls its “special military operation” was partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what it characterises as its rightful sphere of influence.