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What Ukraine’s EU Candidacy Means, and What’s Ahead

Macron, Scholz and Draghi viewing war damage near Kyiv on June 16.
Macron, Scholz and Draghi viewing war damage near Kyiv on June 16.

Photographer: Kat Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

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Ukraine has a path to membership in the European Union after the bloc’s leaders granted it candidacy status. Joining the EU would solidify Ukraine’s westward orientation, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to thwart by force. Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor, with whom it shares a long history and cultural affinity, spurred an effort by European nations to forge ties with Ukraine at a pace barely imaginable before the war began. But the road to EU accession can be lengthy, with obstacles along the way, including a lack of unity among its members about enlargement.

A country given candidacy status has the prospect of joining if it meets the EU’s political and economic criteria. Formal negotiations can begin only once the candidate nation fulfills those conditions. In Ukraine’s case, the EU’s initial road map requires steps to fight corruption, break the control of oligarchs over the economy and make rules for selecting judges. The European Commission will monitor progress. Once talks start, the parties have to work through 35 so-called chapters covering everything from the environment to markets to ensure Ukraine’s legislation and standards are aligned with the EU’s.