During a brief visit to Kyiv last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and informed him of discussions over whether to suggest Ukraine as a candidate for membership.

All 27 EU states would have to agree to grant Ukraine official recognition, following which protracted talks on the necessary reforms would take place before Kyiv could be assessed for membership.

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Zelensky has advocated for Ukraine’s swift admittance to the European Union as a means of decreasing the country’s geopolitical fragility in the aftermath of Russia’s February 24 invasion.

While speaking alongside his Ukrainian, French, German, and Italian peers during a historic visit to Kyiv on Thursday, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis asked the European Union to award Ukraine candidacy status, emphasising “there is no time for hesitancy.”

“We are at a turning point in European history,” he stated. 

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“Extraordinary times call for an extraordinary strategic and visionary response. Granting EU candidate status to Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia at the European Council next week, is key in building a strong and lasting shield around all values,” he continued.

“It is about our capacity to project security and stability in our neighborhood. There is no time left for hesitancy. Our partners need for us to step up our long-time support to help them build resilience and cope with a wide array of overlapping challenges, either conventional or hybrid,” he concluded.

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Along with him, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi all expressed support for Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership.

Draghi reiterated his support for Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union, saying the EU “cannot delay this process.”

“I want to say today that the most important message of our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the European Union and wants Ukraine to have candidate status and will support this position in the next European Council,” Draghi said during the joint press conference on Thursday.

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“The Ukrainian people defend every day the values of democracy and freedom that are the basis of the European project, of our project. We cannot delay this process,” Draghi emphasised.

The Italian prime minister also stated that Zelensky understood that the journey from candidate to a member of the EU was “a path, not a point,” and that “profound reforms” in Ukrainian society were required.

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Draghi also warned that the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine “must not turn into a world catastrophe” and appealed for safe passages to “unlock the millions of tons of grain that are blocked in the Black Sea ports.”

“The only way forward is with a United Nations resolution, which regulates the creation of corridors in the Black Sea. Russia has so far rejected it,” Draghi added.