The EU Commission (Commission) announced it is recommended that Ukraine and Maldova be granted candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc in a move that is essentially a symbolic step in the lengthy process to gaining membership.

The announcement was made by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday, together with conditions both countries will be required to meet for membership to progress. Conditions relate to the rule of law, justice and the fight against corruption.

The Commission also recommended that Georgia be given candidate status, with additional conditions specific to the Eastern country attached.

“We have one clear message and that is, yes, Ukraine deserves European perspective. Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country,” Ms von der Leyen said at a press briefing. “Important work also remains to be done. The entire process is merits-based. It goes by the book.”

For Ukraine, the recommendation is particularly significant in light of it being invaded by Russia and the ongoing war. Ukraine has politically invested heavily on closer ties to the West, as it continues to seek support in halting Russia’s war.

“Ukraine is a European state which has given ample proof of its adherence to the values on which the European Union is founded,” the recommendation says. “The commission, therefore, recommends that Ukraine be granted candidate status” on the understanding that it takes a number of specific steps. 

Leaders of EU member states are set to discuss the matter in Brussels on 23-24th June. While Germany, France and Italy have endorsed the membership bid, others, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, have expressed reservations.

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