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‘Wind of change’ in Europe as path to EU opens for Ukraine

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European leaders will formally accept Ukraine as a candidate to join the EU on Thursday, a bold geopolitical move triggered by Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine but a reminder that the 27-nation bloc will need a major overhaul as it looks to enlarge again, according to Reuters.

“History is on the march,” European Union chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday ahead of a two-day summit that will kickstart the EU’s most ambitious expansion since welcoming Eastern European states after the Cold War.

“I am not just talking about Putin’s war of aggression,” she said. “I am talking about the wind of change that once again blows across our continent. With their applications, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and Georgia are telling us that they want change.”

Although it will take Ukraine and Republic of Moldova years and perhaps more than a decade to qualify for membership, the Brussels summit decision will be a symbolic step that signals the EU’s intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his “special military operation” launched in Ukraine in late February was partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what Russia characterizes as its rightful geographical sphere of influence.

While Ukraine and neighboring Republic of Moldova are expected to be welcomed into the EU’s waiting room in Thursday, Georgia will be given a European perspective but told it must fulfil conditions before winning candidate status.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday that the EU must “reform its internal procedures” to prepare for the accession of new members, singling out the need for key issues to be agreed with a qualified majority rather than by unanimity.

The requirement for unanimity often frustrates EU ambitions because member states can block decisions or reduce them to the lowest common denominator.