Home » World » Ukraine’s foreign minister sees E.U. candidacy as a crucial step toward joining a ‘liberal empire.’

Ukraine’s foreign minister sees E.U. candidacy as a crucial step toward joining a ‘liberal empire.’

Ukraine’s foreign minister sees E.U. candidacy as a crucial step toward joining a ‘liberal empire.’

KYIV, Ukraine — As the European Union summit began in Brussels on Thursday evening, an aide to Ukraine’s foreign minister tuned into the proceedings on a laptop.

The minister, Dmytro Kuleba, whose left leg was in a tight red cast after a basketball injury, was upbeat as he watched the European Council grant his war-battered country something it had been seeking without success for years: the coveted status as a candidate to join the bloc.

It was one of the best pieces of news for Ukraine, which is in its fourth month of war, since a successful counteroffensive pushed Russian soldiers away from the capital. Mr. Kuleba said the council’s move was “the most important step in overcoming the last psychological barrier in the relations between Ukraine and the European Union.”

Still, he acknowledged that his country would have to wait a long time before it could join the 27-member bloc. The action by the European Council, composed of the leaders of the member states, was just the first step in a yearslong process, and Ukraine would have to make progress on combating corruption and enforcing the rule of law to finally pass muster.

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“Sure, there will be talks, reforms here and in the European Union,” he said. “I don’t care. As long as long as the decision that Ukraine is Europe is taken, I’m fine. History has been made.”

Mr. Kuleba said that for decades, as Ukrainians fought for democracy in protest movements in 2004 and 2014, Brussels and other European capitals still “were entertaining this idea of a buffer zone of something in the middle, a bridge between Russia and the E.U.”

In the last phase, he said, European leaders were unofficially “winking” at Ukrainian officials. “Like, ‘Guys, everything will be fine, it will take years, but in the end…

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