The EU summit agreed that Ukraine and Moldova will be granted EU candidate status. This was announced by EU Council President Charles Michel on Thursday. Candidate status is the first step in a lengthy EU accession process.

A decision on status must be unanimous among all 27 states. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia applied for EU membership shortly after the start of the Russian war against Ukraine. Georgia is unlikely to become an EU candidate until it completes further reforms.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had also campaigned for a unanimous “yes” from the EU countries, but at the same time called for perspectives for the Western Balkans.

Unlike Ukraine and Moldova, the Balkans were disappointed on Thursday. I can only express my deepest regrets to the EU,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Thursday after an EU-Western Balkans meeting in Brussels. “Not even a war in Europe, which could become a global catastrophe, has been able to bring about their unity.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz went to the meeting with the aim of bringing new impetus to the deadlocked accession process. Countries like North Macedonia and Albania have been waiting for EU membership for almost 20 years, said the SPD politician. “From my point of view, it is of the utmost importance that this now becomes a credible promise.”

But this promise was not made – instead, disillusionment spread, especially on the part of the Balkan states. “We expressed our disappointment with the dynamics of the enlargement process,” said North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski. In 2003, the EU held out the prospect of Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo joining the EU. However, the process is now deadlocked.