In Kyiv, EU leaders back 'immediate' candidate status for Ukraine

(From left) Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hold a press conference in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
Ukraine's Minister for Communities and Territories Development Oleksiy Chernyshov (second left) showing a wartime map to (from left) Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (partially obscured), French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian PM Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Irpin, Ukraine, on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
(From left) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Italian PM Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Kyiv on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
(From left) Mr Draghi, Mr Scholz, Mr Zelensky, Mr Macron and Mr Iohannis discuss the war in Ukraine at the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
(From left) Mr Macron, Mr Scholz and Mr Draghi visit Irpin on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
(From left) Mr Macron, Mr Draghi and Mr Scholz visit Ukraine's Irpin, on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arriving at his hotel in Kyiv on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron at the Kyiv railway station on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arriving at the Kyiv railway station on June 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

KYIV (AFP) - France, Germany, Italy and Romania are all in favour of Ukraine receiving "immediate" official candidate status to join the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron said in Kyiv on Thursday (June 16).

"All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for accession," he said at a joint news conference with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian premier Mario Draghi and Romanian leader Klaus Iohannis who all arrived by train in the Ukrainian capital earlier on Thursday.

Since Russia invaded on Feb 24, President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pushing for Ukraine's rapid admission into the EU and he has demanded an answer on its candidacy before the end of this month.

"We are ready to work for our state to become a full member of the EU," Mr Zelensky said ahead of an EU leaders summit on June 23-24 at which Kyiv's application to become a candidate for membership is likely to be given a green light.

"Ukrainians have already earned the right to go down this road and obtain this candidate status," he told the news conference standing alongside the EU leaders.

Ukraine sees the prospect of joining the EU as a way of reducing its geopolitical vulnerability, which has been exposed by Russia's war inside its borders.

Although many key European nations view such aspirations as favourable, they have warned that membership could take years or even decades.

And it will come with strict conditions attached.

"This status will be accompanied by a roadmap and will also involve taking into account the situation in the Balkans and the neighbouring area, notably Moldova," said Mr Macron.

France holds the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of this month.

'Profound reforms needed'

"Italy wants Ukraine in the EU," Mr Draghi told the news conference.

"It wants Ukraine to have candidate status and will support this position at the next European Council," he said of next week's meeting, while making clear that the road to membership "will have to see profound reforms in Ukrainian society".

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And Germany's Scholz said Berlin would do everything to help secure Kyiv's EU candidate status, stressing that Ukraine "belongs in the European family".

"Germany is for a positive decision for Ukraine. That applies also for Moldova," he said.

Moldova and Georgia also applied for EU membership at the same time as Ukraine.

On June 11, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said the commission would give a clear signal this week on Ukraine's bid to become a candidate on a surprise visit to Kyiv.

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