Ukraine received a significant boost last Friday when the European Commission recommended it for candidate status, a decision the 27 members of the European Union are expected to endorse at a summit this week. That would put the war-torn nation, which has been Europe's bread basket, on course to realise an aspiration that seemed a chimera until Russia's Feb 24 invasion changed everything. President Vladimir Putin's intention in ordering troops into Ukraine was to halt the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and keep a key neighbour outside the West's sphere of influence. Today, as the EU's decision underscores, the invasion is having the opposite result across so many fronts.
Finland and Sweden have eschewed their studied neutrality by applying to join Nato. Ukraine has now moved closer to gain EU membership, which it long cherished but has been careful to not push for too eagerly so as to not alarm Moscow. Moldova, a former Soviet state that pitched for EU membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has also been recommended for candidate status. One by one, whatever sphere of influence Mr Putin may have thought he could preside over is steadily being eroded. That said, the EU decisions must not stoke false hope: North Macedonia became an EU candidate in 2005 but is still waiting to open membership talks.