European Union flag
European Union flag iStock

The European Union will formally welcome Ukraine as a candidate member on Thursday, a measure seen as a major step against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly four months ago.

It may take Ukraine and Moldova more than a decade to quality for membership in the 27-member bloc, Reuters reported.

The decision passed at the two-day European Union summit was largely symbolic but was a signal by the EU that it seeks to expand further into former Soviet controlled territory than it has since Easter European states joined after the collapse of the USSR.

“Today the EU is sending a message of solidarity to the people of Ukraine that you belong to the European family, that you belong to the EU,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said at the summit.

Ukraine and Moldova are to be made “candidates” for EU membership but Georgia will reportedly be told it has conditions it still must complete before being given the same candidate status.

Other Balkan nations, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, are also seeking EU membership at the summit but their acceptance has been stalled by non-unity among EU members, as the large bloc becomes increasingly unwieldy under a host of geopolitical perspectives.

“Welcome to Ukraine, it’s a good thing to give candidate status, but I hope the Ukrainian people will not have much illusions about this,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said at the meeting.