At a summit in Brussels, European Union leaders supported granting Ukraine and Moldova candidate status, announced the European Council President Charles Michel.
"A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU.," Michel wrote on Twitter.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has already reacted to this decision.
"Sincerely commend EU leaders’ decision at #EUCO to grant 🇺🇦 a candidate status. It’s a unique and historical moment in 🇺🇦-🇪🇺 relations. Grateful to Charles Michel, [Ursula] von der Leyen and EU leaders for support. Ukraine’s future is within the EU," Zelensky said on Twitter.
The European Council also recognized Georgia's European perspective: they are ready to grant it candidate status "once the outstanding priorities are addressed".
What steps does the European Commission propose?
The European Commission has also announced an action plan to be implemented to start Ukraine's EU accession talks.
- adoption and implementation of legislation on the selection procedure for judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, including the pre-selection process based on an assessment of their integrity and professional skills, in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission;
- completion of the integrity check of candidates for members of the High Council of Justice and selection of candidates for the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine;
- further strengthening the fight against corruption, in particular among top officials. Completion of the selection and appointment of a new National Anti-Corruption Bureau director and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office chief;
- ensuring compliance of anti-money laundering legislation with the standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF);
- adoption of a comprehensive strategic plan for law enforcement reform;
- implementation of the law on oligarchs;
- bringing media legislation in line with European audiovisual legislation;
- completion of legislative reform for national minorities.
Ursula von der Leyen said that she conveyed the necessary steps to be taken by the Ukrainian authorities during her recent visit to Kyiv. The European Commission understands that some of the reforms are difficult to implement during the war, but believes that some steps can be taken now.
Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna says that Ukraine plans to implement the recommendations of the European Commission to start accession talks by the end of 2022. To this end, the Verkhovna Rada plans to approve more than 30 bills.
What does the candidate status mean?
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal explains that obtaining the status will significantly accelerate the process of Ukraine's entry into the EU internal market, the formation of common energy and digital markets, further trade liberalization, convergence in customs and transport.
In addition, granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership is a political signal, especially for Russia, that the world supports the European path of development.
How soon can Ukraine become EU member after gaining candidate status?
According to the European Commission, after receiving the status of Ukraine will have to meet a number of requirements before the start of accession negotiations. It is difficult to predict how long this will last.
Negotiations on accession among current EU members have proceeded differently. For example, Sweden applied in 1991 and became a member in 1995. On the other hand, Turkey applied in 1987, but has not yet joined the bloc.