The French president praised the ?political gesture? of offering candidacy to Ukraine and Moldova
Granting Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidate for EU membership is a "political gesture" that sends a "strong signal" to Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday. Even as Kiev and Chisinau celebrated, other EU leaders warned that the status was largely symbolic, with years of reforms and negotiations before actual membership would be in the cards.
The EU's recognition of the "European perspective of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia is a strong signal towards Russia in the current geopolitical context," Macron said at a press conference in Brussels. Granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova sends "a very strong message," he added.
"We owe this to the Ukrainian people. They're fighting for our values," Macron said. "From day one of this conflict Europe has been reacting in a quick, historic and united way. Firstly with the sanctions, then macro economic, military and financial support and now by this political gesture."
European Council President Charles Michel also called it "a historic moment" and a "crucial step" on Ukraine and Moldova's path towards the EU.
"27 times yes!" said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, referring to the number of member countries. "Here's to good cooperation in the European family!"
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also praised the "symbolic message" of the EU's decision, but noted that this doesn't mean Kiev would be joining the bloc anytime soon. That is "a process of many years with a lot of reforms which will be very difficult," he said.
The process of joining the EU consists of 35 chapters, and can be suspended or reversed at any point. EuroNews described it as "lengthy, complex and often tortuous."
The European Commission is demanding Ukraine carry out seven major reforms by the end of the year, including implementing a law "meant to curb the excessive influence of oligarchs in the economy" and "the protection of national minorities" - which presumably could refer to Russian-speakers or ethnic Hungarians in the west of the country.
By becoming candidates, Ukraine and Moldova join Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey in the EU's waiting room. Ankara has been a candidate since 1999. Meanwhile, the former Soviet republic of Georgia was merely given an EU "perspective," with candidacy contingent on further political reforms.