BRUSSELS — European leaders gathered on Thursday formally backed EU candidate status for Ukraine, in a historic moment for the bloc and a major morale boost for Kyiv amid war with Russia.
“The future of Ukraine is within the EU,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. wrote on Twitter after the decision, describing it as a “unique and historic moment” in Kyiv’s relationship with the bloc.
Ukraine has long pushed for membership, but Russia’s invasion has added a new sense of urgency. Immediately after the invasion, Zelensky argued for special consideration, an idea supported by some member states and strongly opposed by others.
Within months, personal appeals from Zelensky, fierce Ukrainian diplomacy and support from senior officials and EU leaders made what seemed like a long shot almost inevitable. Ahead of Thursday’s summit, all 27 member states voiced support for granting Ukraine candidate status, officials and diplomats said, with conditions to be met later.
Support for Ukraine’s candidacy does not guarantee membership but would be a first step on the long and difficult road to joining the bloc. Full membership would still be years or even decades away.
Moldova was also a candidate on Thursday.
Ukraine’s impetus has reignited the debate on enlargement more broadly.