Candidate status does not confer membership, which could still be decades away. But the decision is a historic step for Europe – and sends a signal to Russia.

"Today is a good day for Europe," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

This decision strengthens us all. It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, in the face of Russian imperialism. And it strengthens the EU,
she added, referring to the approvals of Moldova and Georgia’s applications for membership candidacy.

Ukraine has long wanted to join the EU. Days into the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded for an expedited path to membership, casting candidacy as a matter of survival. While Baltic states and other eastern European countries backed the idea, many member states pushed back.