BRUSSELS — The European Union agreed Thursday to put Ukraine on a path toward EU membership, acting with uncharacteristic speed and unity to pull the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West.
Meeting at a summit in Brussels, leaders of the EU’s 27 nations mustered the required unanimous approval to grant Ukraine candidate status. That sets in motion a process that could take years or even decades.
The EU also granted candidate status to the tiny country of Moldova, another former Soviet state that borders Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pronounced it a “good day for Europe.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his gratitude and declared: “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”
Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on Feb. 24. Thursday’s decision was unusually rapid for the EU. But the war and Ukraine’s request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to its cause.
To gain EU membership, countries must meet a detailed host of economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles. Ukraine, among other things, will also have to curb entrenched government corruption and adopt other reforms.
The European Parliament endorsed Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit started, passing a resolution that called on EU governments to “move without delay” and “live up to their historical responsibility.”
“It will strengthen Ukraine, it will…