EU to evaluate membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia

3 ex-Soviet republics apply to bloc amid Russia's war on Ukraine and with long history of territorial friction with Georgia.

EU to evaluate membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia

The EU is preparing to consider the membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, three ex-Soviet republics, EU term president France said Tuesday – an announcement made on day 12 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

In recent years both Georgia and Ukraine have had Russian-backed separatists on their territory, with Russian troops crossing into Georgia in 2008 and into Ukraine in 2014 and now, during the current war. Moscow has opposed former Soviet territories joining the EU and other Western institutions.

On Feb. 28, days after the current war began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for the EU to waive normal procedures and grant his country "immediate" membership.

On Monday the ambassadors of the member states agreed to provide an opinion to the EU Commission on the applications of the three countries – the first step in the process – according to a statement by France.

At the end of this step, which is the beginning of a long process for EU candidacy, member states can make nominations by making decisions at the highest political level. For this, the approval of all EU countries is required.

But in recent years some EU countries have been skeptical of further expansion, so it is possible that the EU Commission may propose to the three countries something like a "privileged partnership" instead.

After a country gets candidacy status, it must meet the EU's economic and political criteria.

It can take many years for many countries to meet these criteria before joining. Turkiye, for instance, became an EU candidate in 1999, and its membership negotiations began in 2005, but in the 2010s its accession process stalled.

It is expected that the applications of the three ex-Soviet countries will be discussed by the leaders of the member states when they meet at Paris’ Versailles Palace on Thursday and Friday.

Russia's war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial sanctions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.

At least 406 civilians have been killed and 801 others injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, according to UN figures.

More than 1.7 million people have also fled to neighboring countries, the UN Refugee Agency said.