Candidate status could be extended to Kiev this week, EU's top diplomat hopes
EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said he hoped that the country would be offered the status of EU candidate later this week, calling such a move "historic."
The statement came after a briefing with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmirty Kuleba on Tuesday, on Kiev's conflict with Russia.
In a tweet, Borrell expressed the EU's "unwavering support" for Ukraine for "as long as it takes". The European Council is to review the Ukrainian candidacy bid as well as those of Moldova and Georgia on Thursday and Friday during a summit in Brussels.
Ukraine has been seeking EU membership for years and even enshrined the aspiration in its constitution. The request for integration has been reinvigorated since Russia launched its offensive against Ukraine. Officials in Kiev claim that their country deserves to be a full member of the European economic bloc for defending it from "Russian aggression."
Last week, the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania visited Kiev and expressed their support for Ukraine receiving candidate status. The European Commission also gave its approval last week.
If realized, the step would not necessarily lead to full accession. Turkey has been a candidate since 1987, when it applied to join the European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor of the EU.
Skeptics say Ukraine is nowhere near ready and has serious problems with the rule of law, corruption, crime, and political freedoms.
Russia has sent mixed messages about its attitude towards Ukraine's possible EU accession. Moscow earlier accused Kiev of being increasingly involved in global military affairs instead of regional economic integration. But this week President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia would not object.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.