LONDON — The European Commission on Friday recommended that Ukraine, which has been at war since Russia invaded in February, become a candidate for European Union membership.
“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We want them to live with us, the European dream.”
The decision will be left up to EU leaders, who will vote at a summit in Brussels next week. Some leaders have already shown their support for Ukraine's joining the bloc.
Sweden, which is currently applying for membership in NATO, said it was in favor of Ukraine’s candidacy. “Every state has the sovereign right to choose their own path,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted. “Sweden stands behind their commitment and choice.”
After meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted: “We came to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family. Germany wants a positive decision in favor of Ukraine as a EU candidate country.”
Moldova, another former Soviet republic, was also recommended for membership in the bloc, which is composed of 27 other members. “Moldova has taken a decisive step toward reforms, with a clear mandate from its citizens,” von der Leyen said. She added, however, that the country has a “long way to go.”
In order for countries to join the bloc, they will be required to carry out a series of political and economic reforms.
Georgia, which has also applied for EU membership, was told by the commission it should be given the “European perspective” only once a number of issues have been addressed. "It is up to Georgia now to take the necessary steps,” von der Leyen said. "The sooner you deliver, the sooner there is progress.”
Responding to the news of Ukraine’s EU candidacy, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia was aware of the “intensification of discussions” and that it was “observing in the most careful way.”
The news will be a blow to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which pro-Russian separatist authorities have controlled since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. Russian forces have been stationed there since 1992, after a ceasefire was signed between Moldova and Transnistria, following a short border war in which up to 700 people were killed.
The Kremlin props up Transnistria’s economy by supplying free gas to local industries and paying the elderly the “Putin pension,” a total of $8 a month. In return, Russia keeps soldiers stationed there permanently in what the Kremlin describes as “peacekeeping.” Russian state media, which is widely available in the region, has also played a significant role in bolstering pro-Russian sentiment.