UPDATED: European Commission proposes making Ukraine an EU membership candidate

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BRUSSELS, June 17 (Reuters) – The European Commission proposes to give Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday, adding that this was on understanding that Ukraine carry out number of reforms.

“Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards,” she told reporters in Brussels.

For her statement, von der Leyen wore Ukraine’s colours, a yellow blazer over a blue shirt.

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.

The decision paves 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.

In their first visit to Kyiv since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Italy’s Mario Draghi and Romania’s Klaus Iohannis said Ukraine belonged in the “European family”.

EU candidate status, sought by Ukraine since 2014 when protests in Kyiv toppled an unpopular pro-Russian president, would be a milestone in its path from a former Soviet republic towards a developed economy in the world’s largest trading bloc.

However, the path towards membership is expected to take years, requiring deep reforms tackling endemic corruption.

EU “enlargement” as a policy has also stalled since 2018. EU member states cannot agree on whether to bring other official candidates – Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey – into the bloc. 

One senior eastern European diplomat was also wary of France’s public support for Ukraine ahead of the EU summit on June 23/24, where leaders must endorse the Commission plan.

“I’d rather wait to see what happens at (the summit) to see it on paper and how they formulate it. EU decisions on candidate status can be taken in very different forms so I think actions and results are more important than public statements.”

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press conference on the Commission’s opinions on the EU membership applications by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in Brussels, Belgium, 17 June 2022. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

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