The president of the European Union announced the body’s decision Friday to accept Ukraine as a candidate in its bid to join the 27-member bloc, paving the way for the multi-year process to begin in earnest.
“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” EU President Ursula von der Leyen said at a Brussels press conference. “We want them to live with us the European dream.”
She made the announcement clad in the Ukrainian colors — a yellow blazer over a blue blouse.
“It’s the first step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our victory closer,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted in response to the news Friday morning.
The formal endorsement from the EU head comes a day after leaders of the bloc’s three most powerful economies — France, Italy and Germany — made a visit to war-torn Kyiv.
“My colleagues and I have come here to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday following a meeting between the EU leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Premier Mario Draghi promised Thursday to back Kyiv’s bid for EU membership.
Partnership with the bloc has long been an elusive goal for Ukraine.
A decision by then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to back out of an expected economic deal with the European Union in 2013 and instead partner with Moscow sparked months of protests that lead to his ouster, and eventually to Russian military intervention in 2014.
In another blow to Russia’s efforts to keep its former satellites from relationships with Western Europe, the EU also endorsed the candidacy of Moldova — Ukraine’s southwestern neighbor, home to a pro-Russian breakaway state known as Transnistria.
The path to EU member status is long, and typically requires years of economic and governmental reform to meet the bloc’s requirements on topics as wide-ranging as judicial policy and food-safety protocols.
With Post wires