President of the European Council Charles Michel (center) gestures next to France's President Emmanuel Macron (left) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (right) during a press conference as part of an European Council in Brussels on June 23, 2022. (JOHN THYS / AFP)
BRUSSELS - European Union leaders have accepted Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership of the bloc, European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday.
"Agreement. #EUCO has just decided EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. A historic moment," Michel announced on Twitter. EUCO is short for the European Council, which is currently being attended by EU leaders in Brussels.
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The heads of state and government of the EU member states approved the European Commission's recommendation at the start of their two-day summit in Brussels from Thursday to Friday.
Ukraine applied for EU membership shortly after the conflict with Russia began in the end of February.
The country handed its application on Feb 28. Moldova applied for EU membership on March 3.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the decision as "a unique and historical moment in Ukraine-EU," as he thanked EU leaders for their support.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the decision as "a unique and historical moment in Ukraine-EU," as he thanked EU leaders for their support
The EU candidate countries would need to meet accession conditions to be able to join the bloc, including on issues relating to justice, anti-corruption mechanisms and rule of law, among others, according to EU's criteria.
Diplomats say it will take Ukraine a decade or more to meet the criteria for joining the EU.
READ MORE: Ukraine officially appeals for EU membership
But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was convinced that Ukraine and Moldova will move as swiftly as possible to implement necessary reforms.
Georgia applied for the EU membership on the same day with Moldova, but the European Commission said earlier last week that Georgia's application would be re-examined at a later stage when further reforms will have been made.
Michel also said that the EU leaders had also "decided to recognize the European perspective of Georgia," adding that the council was "ready to grant candidate status once the outstanding priorities are addressed."
"A historic moment in EU-Georgia relations: Georgia's future lies within the EU," he wrote.
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