The European Union recommended on Wednesday opening the negotiations regarding Ukraine's accession to the bloc, despite acknowledging some of Kyiv's shortcomings.
"The Commission recommends that the (EU) Council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine," said the Brussels-based European Commission.
The commission also said it recommended opening accession negotiations with neighboring Moldova.
"Today is a historic day because today the commission recommends that the council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine and with Moldova," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.
What did the EU say?
In a statement, the bloc noted shortcomings in Ukraine's fight against corruption and a need to further limit oligarchs' influence. The EU said talks should formally launch once Ukraine satisfies the remaining conditions regarding stepping up the fight against corruption.
Kyiv is also expected to adopt a law on lobbying in line with EU standards, as well as strengthening national minority safeguards.
European top diplomats spoke in favor of Ukraine's membership. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said Kyiv "belongs in the European family," though he stressed that corruption in the country was a "scourge that needs to be tackled."
EU leaders should decide in December on whether to accept the commission's recommendation, during a summit on December 14-15.
The recommendation is an important milestone in Ukraine's path toward EU membership. Kyiv formally applied in early 2022, alongside neighboring Moldova, shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The EU named it an official candidate country in June 2022.
What other decisions did the EU make?
The European Commission also said on Wednesday that Georgia, another country that applied for membership last year, should receive candidate status once it meets certain conditions. Those revolve around Tbilisi's fight against corruption and election deficiencies.
The EU should begin talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina "once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is achieved," the commission added.
"Completing our Union is the call of history," said von der Leyen. "Completing our Union also has a strong economic and geopolitical logic. Past enlargements have shown the enormous benefits both for the accession countries and the EU. We all win."
How have EU candidate hopefuls reacted?
Both Kyiv and Chisinau welcomed the commission's decision, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailing it as a "strong and historic step."
"Ukrainians deserve this both for their protection of European values, and for the fact that even at times of a full-scale war, we keep our word by developing state institutions," he said on Telegram messenger.
Zelenskyy thanked EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen "for supporting Ukraine on our road to the EU."
Moldova's President Maia Sandu described the recommendation as an "important milestone."
"Moldova is firmly on the path for EU membership and we will continue working relentlessly toward this goal," she said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna also welcomed the recommendation.
She welcomed the recommendation as a "result of a huge amount of work done by the country in war."
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili congratulated both her country and Ukraine on the recommendation.
"I am confident that our countries will be members of the Eu in the close future. Your determination and your victorious struggle has been essential in this historic decision," she said on X.
rmt/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)