Brussels (AP) —The European Union agreed on Thursday to move Ukraine on the path to EU accession, moving further away from Russia’s influence and acting in uncharacteristic speed and unity to tie it closer to the West. did.

At the summit meeting in Brussels, leaders from 27 EU countries gathered the unanimous approval needed to qualify as a candidate for Ukraine. This initiates a membership process that can take years or even decades.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his gratitude and declared that “Ukraine’s future is in the EU.”

“It’s a victory. We’ve been waiting for 120 days and 30 years,” he said on Instagram, referring to the period of the war and the decades after Ukraine became independent due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. “And now we defeat the enemy.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has declared this day a “good day for Europe”.

The EU has also given the status of a candidate to a small country in Moldova, another former Soviet republic that borders Ukraine.

Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on February 24th. Thursday’s decision was unusually quick for the EU and its slow approach to expansion. However, the war and the request for prompt consideration of Ukraine have brought urgency to the cause of the country.

To gain EU membership, countries must meet detailed economic and political conditions, such as the rule of law and commitment to other democratic principles. Ukraine needs to curb established government corruption and adopt other reforms.

The European Parliament approved Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit began and passed a resolution calling on the EU government to “act without delay” and “fulfill their historical responsibilities.”

“It will strengthen Ukraine and strengthen Europe. It is a decision for freedom and democracy and puts us on the right side of history,” said European Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola prior to the final decision. Stated.

EU countries have adopted unprecedented economic sanctions on the Kremlin and have united to support Ukraine in the fight against Russia’s gold and weapons aggression.

The status of EU candidates does not give you automatic rights to participate in the block and does not provide an immediate security guarantee.

However, once a country becomes a member, it is subject to the provisions of the Treaties of the European Union, and if a member state is the victim of an armed aggression, other EU countries are obliged to support that country by all means.

However, the main advantage of joining the EU is that it is economical because it has access to a market of 450 million consumers who are free to move labor, goods, services and capital.

Ukraine has long wanted to join NATO, but the military alliance is not willing to offer it, partly because of government corruption, the shortcomings of defense facilities, and border conflicts.

Before the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine be never allowed to participate in NATO, which accused Ukraine of spreading east towards the Russian side. But earlier this month he said he wasn’t bothered by Ukraine’s determination to approach the EU, which is not a military alliance and therefore “we do not dispute.”

EU leaders also agreed on Thursday to recognize yet another former Soviet Republic, Georgia’s “European perspective.” The European Council Chairman Charles Michel said the EU is ready to approve the status of the candidate if “excellent priorities” are taken up.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Moravietski has long supported Ukraine’s European ambitions. On Twitter, he said: The struggle for freedom continues. “

The membership process is long and can be winding.

For example, Turkey applied for membership in 1987, gained candidate status in 1999, and had to wait until 2005 to begin negotiations for actual membership. Since then, only one of the more than 30 “chapter” of negotiations has been completed, and the entire process has been halted as a result of various conflicts between the EU and Turkey.

Similarly, some Balkans have long unsuccessfully sought accession to the EU.

European officials say Ukraine has already adopted about 70% of EU regulations and standards, but it also points out the need for corruption and serious political and economic reforms in the country.

“It will take considerable effort, especially in the fight against corruption and the establishment of an effective rule of law,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Crew. “But I am convinced that it is exactly the reconstruction of Ukraine (after the war) that offers the opportunity to take an important step.”

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Follow the Associated Press war reports at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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