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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.
Following her announcement, she tweeted: “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream.”
“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after meeting President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In his nightly video address on Thursday, Mr Zelensky said Europe “can create a new history of freedom” due to Ukraine’s war efforts.
“Ukraine has come close to the EU, closer than any time since independence,” he said, mentioning unspecified “good news” to come.
Launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all member countries. Denmark’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod indicated on Friday that his Government would be willing to support Ukraine’s entry into the bloc.
EU leaders will discuss the Commission’s membership candidate proposal for Ukraine during a summit in Brussels on June 23-24.
Though the war has put pressure on EU governments to fast-track Ukraine’s candidate status, the process is expected to take years and EU states remain divided over how quickly to welcome new members.
In order to join the bloc, Ukraine would be required to carry out a series of economic and political reforms and it is unlikely the EU would take in a country in a state of war.
Responding to the news, the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia would pay “heightened attention” to Ukraine’s bid to join the EU.
“We are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defence component of the EU,” he told a telephone briefing with journalists.
“There are various transformations that we are observing in the most careful way.”
Elsewhere, the European Commission also proposed making Moldova an EU membership candidate.
The Commission concluded that Moldova, which shares a long border with Ukraine, has reached a solid basis to further alignment with EU rules and regulations, the EU’s executive said in a statement.
The EU’s last major enlargement was in 2004 when eight formerly communist eastern countries - including the Baltic States, Poland and Slovenia - joined. Romania and Bulgaria followed in 2007.