The European Union (EU) have accepted Ukraine and Moldova to join the bloc, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council has announced.

Heads of state and government, meeting in Brussels for a two-day European Council, agreed to candidacy for both Moldova and Ukraine. Both countries will be required to meet certain conditions as candidates to move forward. Georgia will soon become a candidate if it meets the conditions.

Ukraine applied less than a week after it was invaded in February and its candidacy has been fast-tracked. Candidate status is the first official step towards EU membership but it can take years to join and there’s no guarantee of success.

Candidates must meet standards on the state of their economy and political sphere, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles.

If a country joins the EU it is protected by a treaty clause that requires other members to help if it’s attacked. Ukraine President Zelensky spoke of his country’s desire for candidate status several times over the past week with hopes of the membership aiding in the war against Russia.

Ukraine also aspires to join the NATO, which is separate from the EU, but that’s currently a remote prospect and President Putin has demanded it never be allowed to become a member of the military alliance.

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