HomePoliticsGermany, France and Italy support EU candidate status for Ukraine

Germany, France and Italy support EU candidate status for Ukraine

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The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania on Thursday endorsed the acceptance of Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for EU membership, dispelling doubts about their stance amid Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“All four of us support immediate candidate status for membership,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at a joint news conference in Kyiv, where the leaders traveled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He was speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Scholz came to a similar conclusion: “Germany is in favor of a positive decision in favor of Ukraine. This also applies to the Republic of Moldova,” the foreign minister said. “Ukraine belongs to the European family,” he added.

Scholz’s statement was particularly notable as the chancellor had been more reluctant to endorse a path to Ukraine or Moldova membership in previous comments.

It was clear, however, that some conditions would be attached to the candidacy for membership.

Scholz emphasized that the enlargement of the EU “is subject to clear criteria that must be met by all candidates”, naming “especially democracy and the rule of law”. But he said that while the membership candidates must be reformed, there is an equal need for modernization on the part of the EU. “The EU needs to prepare and modernize its structures and procedures,” he said, referring to issues such as the requirement of unanimity in important decisions such as foreign policy, which has hampered the bloc’s ability to act and decide quickly.

Leaders visit Irpin, Kyiv’s thorny war suburb | Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung via Getty Images

The EU is likely to request strict requirements on democratic and institutional reforms, such as the fight against corruption, as part of the EU enlargement process. Ukraine will also likely have to first reach a peace deal with Russia before talks with the EU can begin.

The European Commission is expected to officially recommend giving Ukraine and Moldova membership candidacy on Friday, but it is up to EU countries to make a final decision. EU leaders will meet in Brussels next week on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue.

Earlier in the day, European leaders had visited Irpin, the northwestern suburb of Kyiv where Russian invaders destroyed buildings and allegedly tortured and killed civilians during weeks of occupation before Ukrainian forces drove them out.

They discussed the reconstruction of the city with Oleksiy Chernyshov, the Ukrainian minister of territorial development. Stopping in front of a building covered in graffiti reading “Make Europe Not Make War,” Macron said: “It’s very moving to see that.” “We will rebuild everything,” Draghi added, speaking to the press during the visit.

In Irpin, Macron also said that: “It is a heroic city because it is here that, among other places, the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army descending on Kyiv, so you have to imagine the heroism of the army but also of the Ukrainian people.”

Scholz added that Irpin is an example of “the brutality of the Russian war of aggression, which simply seeks to destroy and conquer” and of an ongoing invasion that continues “without regard to human life.”

A French diplomatic official told reporters that once the Russian war is over, “a dialogue” between Moscow and Kyiv “will be necessary to find out how we build a sustainable peace” with security guarantees for Ukraine, and the nature of the relationship between Ukraine and NATO.

This article was updated.

Chris Miller reported from Kyiv.

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