Following months of lobbying, Ukraine was finally granted candidate status by the European Union to become a member of the international trading organization.
The EU’s governing body, the European Commission, announced its recommendation to grant Ukraine with candidate status alongside Moldova and Georgia, which also applied for membership.
The move to grant Ukraine candidate status comes months following Russia’s invasion into the country, following years of Ukrainian hostilities against the country’s eastern breakaway regions, which have the support of Russia.
“Today’s Opinions are based on the Commission’s assessment in light of the three sets of criteria to join the E.U. agreed by the European Council: political criteria, economic criteria and the ability of the country to assume the obligations of E.U. membership (E.U. acquis),” the European Commission’s statement read.
“The Opinions also take into account Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia’s efforts in implementing their obligations under the Association Agreements (AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA), which cover significant parts of the EU acquis.”
The provision of candidate status to a prospective member state requires the unanimous consent of all EU member nations, and is the first stage in a long and arduous process for full membership.
The move to bestow Ukraine with EU candidate status can be regarded as a symbolic gesture of support for the country, which has been engaged in high-pitched conflict with Russian forces since the end of February.
Ukraine is still a long way away from gaining full membership into the trading bloc, and is also pushing its European neighbors to grant it entry into NATO.
Despite little pushback from Russia over its prospective entry into the European Union, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is preparing to face escalating pressure from Russia as it moves closer to full membership in the EU.
On Twitter, Zelensky celebrated the European Commission's decision to give Ukraine its recommendation.
As detailed by Axios, candidate status is not a guarantee of eventual membership. Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia have also achieved candidate status for years but have yet to join the EU.