EU leaders back ‘immediate’ candidate status for Ukraine
EU officials and leaders caution that, even with candidacy status, actual EU membership could take decades
France, Germany, Italy, and Romania are all in favor of Ukraine receiving “immediate” official candidate status to join the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday in Kyiv.
"All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for accession," he said at a joint press conference with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian premier Mario Draghi, and Romanian leader Klaus Iohannis.
Draghi also reaffirmed his strong support for Ukraine's hopes of joining the European bloc: "The most important message of our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the EU," he said after talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
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Zelensky has been pressing for rapid admission into the EU as a way to reduce Ukraine’s geopolitical vulnerability, which was brutally exposed by Russia’s invasion over three months ago.
"The EU will be much stronger with Ukraine… we have proven our strengths,” the Ukrainian leader said in a video address to European lawmakers in early March.
But officials and leaders in the EU caution that, even with candidacy status, actual membership could take years, if not decades.
Last month, France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune told Radio J that the bid would not be finalized for another “15 to 20 years.”
"I don't want to offer Ukrainians any illusions or lies," he said, reiterating an offer by Macron to create a looser "European political community" that could help integrate Ukraine within the bloc sooner.
Making a surprise visit to Kyiv last week, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the commission will provide a clear signal this week on Ukraine's EU candidate status bid.