The countries of the European Union (EU) agreed to grant Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidates for membership of the bloca decision taken in record time as a political response to Russia. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, maintained that it is a sign of strength “against Russian imperialism” to open the process of incorporation of the two former Soviet nations, despite the fact that the process of joining the EU it can take years.
Despite being only a first step towards entering the economic bloc, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky celebrated it as “a unique and historic moment in relations between Ukraine and the EU” and added that “Ukraine’s future lies within the EU”.
“This decision strengthens us all. It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia against Russian imperialism. And it strengthens the EU. Because it once again shows the world that we are united and strong against external threats,” Von added. der Leyen, while the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, agreed to describe it as a “historic event”.
At the same meeting, it was decided to leave Georgia – another former Soviet republic – a step back, which will have to advance with certain reforms to achieve the status of a candidate country, as decided by the bloc’s summit. Charles noted that these are “pending priorities” that, once resolved, will allow the country where Joseph Stalin was born to achieve candidate status for EU membership.
Thursday’s summit in Brussels was the first of three in a week in Europe that will test the West’s unity in supporting Ukraine amid rising geopolitical tensions and the growing economic impact of the conflict.
From Sunday to Tuesday, the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) will stage their annual summit in Germany and, after it, the NATO leaders will meet in Spain to discuss, amid differences, the entry of Finland and Sweden.
“I hope that the Ukrainians have no illusions”
Ukraine’s accession case earlier reignited the frustration of countries in the Western Balkans that have been candidates for joining the EU for years and whose accession process ran into obstacles that were difficult to overcome. North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia have been waiting for several years, without much progress in joining the bloc, the same bloc that did not hide its haste in granting the status of candidate country to Ukraine and Moldova.
Leaders from the EU and the Western Balkans held a meeting in Brussels, which ended without it being possible to verify any progress. “We have not obtained anything,” summed up Alexandar Vucic, president of Serbia, after the meeting. Meanwhile, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said the current situation is “truly very, very worrying.”
“North Macedonia has been a candidate for 17 years, if I haven’t lost count. Albania, for eight. So welcome, Ukraine. It’s good that Ukraine’s status is recognized. But I hope the Ukrainians don’t get their hopes up.” “, expressed the Albanian president.
Albania and North Macedonia are frustrated that Bulgaria used its EU member status to block their accessions. All three are NATO countries.
Bulgaria has a dispute with North Macedonia over ethnic and linguistic issues, and this struggle has also hindered Albania’s accession process, because the EU considers all three to be part of the same package.
“It is a shame that a NATO country, Bulgaria, hijacks two NATO countries, Albania and North Macedonia, in the middle of a war in the courtyard of Europe, while the other 26 countries sit helplessly” Rama said.
The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said in Brussels that the rule that requires the unanimous approval of the current EU members “is a big problem” when making decisions.
“So we have to think about how we make decisions in the EU, because we can’t go on with just one country blocking for months and months,” he added.