• Summit accepts Ukraine and Moldova as candidates to join the EU
  • The path to membership could take more than a decade
  • Concern about how to maintain the cohesion and unity of the EU as it grows
  • Balkan leaders frustrated by wait to join
  • Summit to address concerns about inflation and energy crisis

BRUSSELS, June 23 (Reuters) – European Union leaders on Thursday granted Ukraine the coveted status of an official candidate to join their 27-nation club, a bold geopolitical step hailed by Kyiv and the EU itself as a “historic moment”. “.

Although it could take more than a decade for Ukraine to join the bloc, the decision to officially accept it as a candidate is a symbol of the EU’s intention to deepen the former Soviet Union.

“The Ukrainian people belong to the European family. Ukraine’s future lies in the EU,” said the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. “Today marks the beginning of a long journey that we will walk together.”

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted Kyiv to formally apply for candidate status and the EU to speed up its approval.

“Ukraine’s future lies in the EU,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted, welcoming the EU’s decision as “a unique and historic moment.”

Six years after the British voted to leave the EU, Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova was also granted candidate status, and Georgia, another former Soviet state, was told it would get the same once it fulfilled with more conditions.

EU leaders stressed that these countries will have a lot of “homework” to do, and after kicking off their most ambitious expansion since Eastern European states joined after the Cold War, the bloc may need to change the way in which it works to cope.

“I am convinced that (Ukraine and Moldova) will move as quickly as possible and work as hard as possible to implement the necessary reforms,” ​​EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.

“SIGNAL TO MOSCOW”

The green light from the EU “is a signal to Moscow that Ukraine, and also other countries of the former Soviet Union, cannot belong to Russian spheres of influence,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU told Reuters on Thursday. Vsevolod Chentsov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his “special military operation” launched in Ukraine in late February was necessitated in part by Western encroachment on what Russia characterizes as its legitimate geographic sphere of influence.

Behind the triumphant rhetoric about granting Ukraine and Moldova candidate status, there is concern within the EU about how the bloc can remain coherent as it continues to enlarge. read more

After beginning in 1951 as an organization of six countries to regulate industrial production, the EU now has 27 members facing complex challenges, from climate change and the rise of China to a war on their own doorstep.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this week that the EU must “reform its internal procedures” to prepare for the accession of new members, stressing the need for key issues to be agreed by a qualified majority rather than unanimously.

The unanimity requirement often frustrates EU ambitions because member states can block decisions or water them down.

FRUSTRATION IN THE BALKANS

Reluctance to enlarge the EU has slowed progress towards membership by a group of Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – whose leaders met their EU counterparts in Brussels. earlier that day.

Expressing his frustration, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said upon arriving at that meeting: “Welcome to Ukraine, it’s good to give candidate status, but I hope the Ukrainian people don’t have too many illusions about it.”

A draft of the summit declaration showed that EU leaders would once again give “full and unequivocal commitment to the perspective of EU membership of the Western Balkans”.

But Ukraine’s rapid move to formal candidate status has only served to increase its sense of being on the sidelines, putting the EU at risk of Russia and China extending their influence in the Balkan region. read more

Despite being rocked in recent years by a migrant crisis and Brexit, the union remains popular, with a poll this week showing approval for EU membership at its highest level in 15 years. .

But public discontent is mounting over inflation and an energy crisis as Russia restricts gas supplies in response to sanctions imposed over its actions in Ukraine, issues that will be discussed during the second day of the summit on Friday.

(This story corrects the name of the Ukrainian ambassador to the European Union to Vsevolod Chentsov, not Chentsov Vsevolod in paragraph 9)

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Reporting by Phil Blenkinsop, Robin Emmott, Bart Biesemans, Christian Levaux, Francesco Guarascio, Jan Strupczewski, Charlotte van Campenhout; Written by John Chalmers and Ingrid Melander; Edited by Catherine Evans and John Chalmers

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



Reference-www.reuters.com

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