the first step
European Union leaders on Thursday unanimously agreed to put Ukraine on the path to EU membership, granting the country candidate status.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded by tweeting, "Ukraine's future is within the EU." The EU also gave candidate status to Moldova, a country that borders Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and not even a week later, Ukraine applied for EU membership. While the EU moved quickly to give Ukraine candidate status, it could still take years — or even decades — for the country to gain membership, CBS News reports. In order to become an EU member, a country has to meet certain political and economic conditions, including agreeing to democratic principles.
EU leaders say Ukraine has adopted roughly 70 percent of the EU's rules and standards, but "considerable efforts will be needed, especially in the fight against corruption and the establishment of an effective rule of law," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said. "But I am convinced that it is precisely the [post-war] reconstruction of Ukraine that will provide opportunities to take important steps forward."