EU leaders met in Brussels on Thursday, where the EU’s 27 nations voted and acquired the unanimous approval needed for Ukraine to obtain candidate status.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy immediately welcomed the move, stating that “Ukraine’s future is in the EU”.
“It’s a victory,” Zelenskyy said on Instagram.
“We have been waiting for 120 days and 30 years,” he added, referring to the duration of the war and the time since Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union.
“And now we will defeat the enemy.”
The vote now sets in motion a membership process consisting of several steps, including adopting all the European Union’s laws and regulations. This process normally takes several years.
The move from applicant to the candidate also usually takes years, but the EU accelerated the process.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, said earlier this week that the EU had moved at “lightning speed” by its standards.
“We need this clarity [on EU membership] to support the Ukrainian army, Ukrainian society, morally, psychologically, and to get the clear feeling and understanding of the direction of movement for Ukraine,” he said.
So, what happens if Ukraine joins the European Union?
The EU mostly focus on economic and political aspects and is not a military alliance like NATO.
Membership does not mean the other EU member states will directly take up arms against Russia.
But membership can have a dramatic effect on a country’s economy, similar to Bulgaria and Romania, where their GDP doubled and tripled since joining.
There are still military benefits, as the EU has a mutual deface clause stating that if an EU country is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, other Eu countries have an obligation to assist.
Nations such as Poland had to wait 10 years from applying to be granted EU membership during a time of peace.
It may still be a while before we see Ukraine officially join the European Union, but the right steps have already been put in place.