European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the College of Commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, June 17, 2022. (GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT / AP)
BRUSSELS – The European Commission recommended that Ukraine and Moldova should be granted candidate status for accession to the European Union, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.
Georgia still has some progress to make before being granted candidate status, but is on the right track, according to von der Leyen.
"Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia share the strong and legitimate aspiration of joining the European Union. Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances," she said.
The College of the European Commission met on Friday morning to issue an opinion on whether Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia should be granted the European Perspective and candidate status for EU accession, at the demand of the European Council.
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The council will then make its decision on the three countries' applications on June 23-24.
Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances.
Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission
Ukraine's decision to start the procedure to enter the EU was fast-tracked when the Russia-Ukraine conflict started on Feb 24. The country handed in its application on Feb 28. Moldova and Georgia applied for EU membership on March 3.
The European Commission's opinion is based on three criteria – political criteria, economic criteria, and the ability of the country to assume the obligations of EU membership.
"Our partner countries should already start working to deliver on their side on the key reforms outlined in our recommendation. This is crucial in order for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to move ahead on their EU path," explained Oliver Varhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement.
Areas of improvement for all three countries include reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and money laundering, limiting the influence of oligarchs, aligning with EU media law, and protection of minorities.
(From left) Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hold a press conference in at Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv on June 16, 2022. (LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP)
Moldova and Georgia also have to work on the fight against organized crime, well-functioning state institutions and the involvement of civil society, among other things.
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Georgia's request to be granted candidate status will be re-examined at a later stage when further reforms will have been made.
Candidate status is the first step in the long road to becoming an EU member state. The next step is the opening of formal accession talks, a step which again requires the approval of all EU member countries. However, a candidate or in accession negotiations does not guarantee EU membership.