The European Union has officially included Ukraine, which has been attacked by Russia, among the candidate countries. In addition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his colleagues decided at an EU summit on Thursday to also grant Moldova the status of a candidate country, as Council President Charles Michel announced. The Belgian spoke of a “historic moment”. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commented: “Today is a good day for Europe.”

With this step, the EU recognizes the efforts of the two countries to gain accession to the EU and wants to encourage them to continue on this path with determination. In view of the Russian war against his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in particular has repeatedly called for such a message from the EU – also to show the more than 40 million citizens of his country that the fight for freedom and democracy is worthwhile.

On Thursday, Zelenskyy described his country’s EU candidate status as a unique and historic moment in bilateral relations.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) congratulated Ukraine and Moldova. “Yes 27 times!” Scholz wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “The European Council welcomes two new candidate countries to join the EU. To good cooperation in the European family!”

At the start of the EU summit in Brussels, Scholz once again urged that Ukraine be made a candidate for accession. The SPD politician spoke of a “historic” meeting of the heads of state and government, but also called for reforms in the European Union to enable the admission of new members. The EU must make itself “enlargeable”, he said. This also includes lifting the principle of unanimity for some decisions.

The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, also spoke of a historic day. “We have a difficult road ahead of us that will require a lot of work and effort,” she explains on Facebook. EU membership would bring more prosperity, more opportunities and more order to your country. Moldova lies between Ukraine and the EU and NATO country Romania.

Candidate status is not a guarantee of speedy admission to the EU. According to a recommendation by the EU Commission, EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova should only begin once they have fulfilled further reform requirements. It is about judicial reforms and a stronger fight against corruption.

The case of Turkey shows that the accession process can also end in a dead end. The country has had candidate status since 1999. However, the EU accession negotiations that began in 2005 have been on hold for years because of the unsatisfactory developments in the country from Brussels’ perspective.

EU country Bulgaria has blocked the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania for more than a year because North Macedonia refuses to respond to demands on minorities, history and language. Attempts to solve the blockade in time for a Western Balkans meeting organized on the fringes of the EU summit failed. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia were also represented there.

“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 turn into a global catastrophe, was able to bring about their unity.” Countries like Austria and Slovenia are pushing for commitments to the Western Balkans.