As Ukraine continues to fight back against Russia’s invasion, the European Union (EU) granted Ukraine candidate for membership. The decision came Thursday, just hours after the European Parliament “overwhelmingly voted in favor” of a resolution that called on EU governments to “move without delay” and “live up to their historical responsibility” in granting membership candidacy to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
“If there ever was a time for more Europe, this is the moment. This decision to grant Ukraine candidate status is the right one,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said Thursday. “It will strengthen Ukraine. It will strengthen Europe. It is a decision for freedom and democracy. And it puts us also on the right side of history.”
The EU membership candidacy vote came as Russia and Ukraine are set to mark four months of war. Ukraine submitted its application for EU membership just a few days after the invasion began.
“The decision on granting Ukraine candidate status would give a very clear understanding to all 27 member states that they have to stand with Ukraine as long as it is needed,” Olha Stefanishyna, a Ukrainian official overseeing the country’s push to join the EU, said Wednesday.
On Thursday, Kyiv resident Natalia Bosak added, “Of course, this is very important. This offers protection and hope for a better life.”
Deciding on whether to grant candidate status to a country in less than four months is uncharacteristically rapid for the EU. However, candidate status only kicks off a potentially yearslong process towards membership.
To win membership, Ukraine must meet a host of detailed political and economic conditions, including the embrace of certain democratic principles. If that happens, Ukraine would be covered under an EU treaty clause that says if a member falls victim to armed aggression, the other EU countries are obligated to assist it by all the means in their power.
Ukraine has long aspired to join NATO, too. Before the war started, Russia President Vladimir Putin demanded Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, which he has condemned for its spread toward Russia’s flank.
It appears NATO will not offer an invitation due to Ukrainian governmental corruption, shortcomings in the country’s defense establishment, and its contested borders.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.