“It is the first step on the path of EU membership that will certainly bring our victory closer,” the president tweeted Voldymyr Zelensky† “It is precisely thanks to the courage of the Ukrainians that Europe can create a new history of freedom and finally remove the gray zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia.”
One of President Vladimir Putin’s main goals in launching an invasion that killed thousands, destroyed cities and displaced millions was to stop the expansion of the West eastward through the military alliance of the United States. NATO. Friday’s announcement underlined how the war has had the opposite effect: convincing Finland and Sweden to join NATO, and now the EU to embark on its potentially most ambitious expansion since welcoming Eastern European states after the Cold War.
Putin downplayed the EU issue, saying on Friday: “We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It is the right of every country to join an economic union.”
EU leaders are expected to approve the membership candidate decision at a summit next week. The leaders of the three largest — Germany, France and Italy — expressed their solidarity on Thursday by visiting Kiev with the president of Romania.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu praised a “strong signal of support to Moldova and our citizens” and said her government was determined to work hard on the process. While the Commission recommended candidate country status for Ukraine and Moldova, the Commission waited for the more volatile Georgia, which it said must first meet more conditions.
If allowed, Ukraine would be the EU’s largest country by area and the fifth most populous country. All three ex-Soviet candidates are much poorer than any existing EU member state, with a per capita production about half that of the current poorest, Bulgaria. All three have recent histories of volatile politics, domestic unrest, entrenched organized crime and unresolved conflicts with Russia-backed separatists declaring sovereignty over territory protected by Moscow’s troops.