Ukraine receives EU membership candidate status… Fast approval in 4 months

The flags of Ukraine and Moldova, which have been granted EU candidate status, and the EU flags are placed side by side. | Reuters Yonhap News

European Union (EU) member states have agreed to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate for accession to the EU.

On the 23rd (local time), the President of the European Union, Charles Michel, announced on Twitter that the leaders of 27 member countries had unanimously decided to grant Ukraine and Moldova candidate EU membership status at the summit held in Brussels, Belgium. He emphasized that this was a “historical moment” and congratulated Ukraine and Moldova, saying, “Today is an important step in your path to the EU.”

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “There is no better sign of hope for Ukraine and Moldova in these difficult times.

The news was welcomed by the leaders of Ukraine and Moldova. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted after the news was announced that it was a “very special and historic moment” and that “Ukraine’s future lies in the EU”. Moldova’s President Maia Sando said it was a “historic day” and responded to the decision as “a clear and strong signal of support to the Moldovan citizens.”

As a result, Ukraine obtained EU candidate status just four months after it officially applied for membership. Considering that it usually takes several years for candidate country status to be granted, it was obtained at an exceptionally fast rate. Ukraine officially applied for EU membership on February 28, four days after Russia invaded. Since then, Georgia and Moldova have applied for EU membership one after another. Reuters said the decision was “a bold geopolitical action sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and is the most ambitious expansionary move since the EU accepted Eastern European countries after the Cold War.

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However, there are speculations that it may take years or decades for Ukraine to become a formal member state. This is because some member countries are showing a lukewarm attitude toward Ukraine’s candidate country status. Ukraine will be tested whether it is willing and able to accept and implement EU law, and must implement reform measures in line with the standards required for accession in the judicial, administrative and economic sectors. Also, acquiring the status of a candidate country does not immediately start negotiations for membership. This is also a process that requires the consent of the 27 EU member states. Even after negotiations, approval of accession requires the support of all EU member governments, the EU Commission and the European Parliament, and ratification by the parliaments of each member state. Therefore, the decision appears to be a symbolic step to send a message of solidarity to Ukraine.

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