EU leaders expected to sign off on Ukraine’s candidacy at summit this week after EU Commission recommendation.
Ukraine is set to become an official candidate for European Union membership on Thursday in a symbolic but morale-boosting decision following Russia’s invasion, ministers and diplomats have said.
EU leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels on Thursday are expected to sign off on last week’s recommendation by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive institution.
Several diplomats talking to international media on Tuesday confirmed that no countries raised objections at a meeting of the bloc’s ambassadors on Monday.
“We are working towards the point where we tell [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends,” Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn told reporters on Tuesday before a meeting with other EU ministers.
“There is not a single country which makes problems with the proposal. We will show great unanimity.”
France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, said that there was “a total consensus on moving these issues forward, and in particular for Ukraine the possibility of confirming candidate status as soon as possible”.
Moldova is also almost certain to be given candidate status, three diplomats told the Reuters new agency, although Georgia must fulfill conditions, namely that it overcome political deadlock in the country.
The EU is expected to impose conditions on Ukraine and Moldova over judicial reforms and tackling corruption, among other issues, before they could move on to formal entry negotiations.
While the candidacy will mark a strategic eastward shift by the EU in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Kyiv would likely take years to become a member of the bloc, if at all.
Despite some misgivings among northern EU countries that taking in Ukraine, which suffers from endemic corruption, is unrealistic, Denmark’s foreign minister said he welcomed giving it candidacy status.
“It’s very good and it’s something that Denmark wholeheartedly supports; we want to help Ukraine to achieve its European dream,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters in Luxembourg.
Ukraine already has a free trade pact with the EU but applied to join days after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion on February 24.
Moscow says its “special military operation” was partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what it characterises as its rightful geographical sphere of influence.
Putin has so far played down the issue of Ukraine’s EU membership.
EU leaders also aim to maintain pressure on Russia at their summit this week by committing to further work on sanctions, according to a draft document cited by Reuters, with gold among assets that may be targeted in a possible next round of measures.
The EU has adopted six packages of sanctions against Russia and Belarus since the invasion, but several sectors including gas remain largely untouched as EU governments avoid measures that could damage their own economies more than Russia’s.
The British government is determined to impose further sanctions on Russia and will continue to do so until Moscow fully withdraws from Ukraine, foreign minister Liz Truss said on Tuesday.
“We are determined to provide more weapons, impose more sanctions and back Ukraine in pushing Russia out of their territory,” Truss told parliament.