Germany, France and Italy back EU candidate status for Ukraine

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania on Thursday threw their weight behind accepting Ukraine and Moldova as EU membership candidates, laying to rest doubts over their stance amid Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for membership,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at a joint news conference in Kyiv, where the leaders had traveled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He was speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Scholz delivered a similar conclusion: “Germany is in favor of a positive decision in favor of Ukraine. This also applies to the Republic of Moldova,” the chancellor said, adding: “Ukraine belongs to the European family.”

Scholz’s statement was particularly notable since the chancellor had been more reluctant to endorse a trajectory toward membership for Ukraine or Moldova in previous comments.

It was not immediately clear, however, what conditions would be attached to membership candidacy. The EU will likely request strict requirements on democratic and institutional reforms, such as the fight against corruption, as part of the EU enlargement process. Ukraine will also probably have to first reach a peace agreement with Russia before any talks with the EU could begin.

The European Commission is expected to officially recommend granting Ukraine and Moldova the membership candidacy on Friday, but it is up to EU countries to make a final decision. EU leaders will meet in Brussels next week on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue.