Granting Ukraine EU-candidate status is an important “symbolic message” to support Kiev amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Thursday. Actual admission of the country into the bloc, however, will take “many years” and a “lot of reforms,” he warned.
Ukraine is expected to be accorded candidate status during the ongoing European Council summit. The EU Parliament overwhelmingly supported the move on Thursday, while last week the EU Commission recommended the granting of such status to Kiev.
Speaking ahead of a bloc summit, De Croo reiterated Belgium’s support for Kiev’s EU membership aspirations.
“Ukrainians are fighting for our values, for our values of democracy, security and peace. Giving a signal to the Ukrainian population with the candidate status is a very important symbolic message,” De Croo said.
Still, the process of actual accession into the bloc will be a bumpy road as the country has to tackle a wide range of issues to meet EU standards, the premier pointed out.
“This does not mean that Ukraine will soon be part of the European Union. It is a process of many years with a lot of reforms which will be very difficult and for us it is very important to give a strong symbolic signal,” De Croo explained.
Joining the EU has been a prime talking point for pro-Western Ukrainian politicians for decades already, yet the bloc’s member states have not yet signaled that Kiev was ready to become a candidate. Ukraine’s drive to join the bloc became reinvigorated amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, which broke out in late February.