Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia welcome EU support for moves closer to membership

Brussels says more reforms are required in three states where Russia wants influence

Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have hailed the European Commission’s recommendation to advance their bids for European Union membership, even as the executive made clear that more reforms were required to keep progress on track.

The commission said it supported the start of accession talks for Ukraine and Moldova and the granting of candidate status to Georgia – as long as all three took more important pro-democracy and anti-corruption steps – in a move that is likely to be approved by member states next month.

“Today, the history of Ukraine and the whole of Europe has taken the right step...This is a pure positive. Despite all the difficulties, we are moving forward,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said after 21 months of all-out war with Russia’s invasion force.

“Ukrainians have always been and remain part of our common European family. Our country must be in the European Union. Ukrainians deserve it both for their defence of European values and for the fact that even in times of full-scale war, we keep our word and develop state institutions. All the necessary decisions are being adopted.”


The commission’s decision comes a decade after Ukraine’s then president, the Kremlin-backed Viktor Yanukovich, abruptly scrapped plans to sign a strategic partnership with the EU and sought to move deeper into Russia’s orbit. The ensuing protests became the so-called Maidan revolution, which aligned Ukraine with the West and prompted Russia to annex Crimea and foment fighting in eastern Ukraine it escalated in February 2022.

Moldovan president Maia Sandu said her country had reached “an important milestone...recognising our commitment to democracy and development. Moldova is firmly on the path for EU membership and we will continue working relentlessly towards this goal.”

Georgia remains a step behind, but is poised to receive the candidate status that it was denied last year due to mounting concerns over alleged backsliding on democratic reforms, government hostility towards civil society and political meddling in the courts, media and other areas of public life.

The governing Georgian Dream party has rejected criticism of its 11-year rule as unfair and inaccurate “propaganda” from adversaries at home and abroad, while also denying allegations that it is moving closer to Russia, which invaded Georgia in 2008 and still exerts de facto control over 20 per cent of its territory.

Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili said his government had maintained “unprecedented peace and stability despite severe challenges and a complicated security environment in the region” and had overcome “co-ordinated attempts” by “domestic and foreign enemies” to derail the country’s bid for candidate status.

Georgian president Salome Zourabichvili called a rally for Wednesday evening in support of EU membership and against Russian aggression, a month after the government failed in a bid to impeach her for visiting western capitals without its permission.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe