The most influential leaders of the European Union have endorsed Ukraine's bid to be approved as a candidate for EU membership, sending a strong message of support for Kyiv's fight against Russian aggression.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived by train in Ukraine on Thursday and traveled to the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, the site of severe clashes during the early stages of the ruthless attack.
Later joined by the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, they met with their Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been lobbying his western partners for more extensive and faster armament deliveries and the prospect of a European future.
Macron stated at a joint press conference with his EU counterparts, "All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for accession,"
Draghi concurred, stating, "The most important message of our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the EU."
Scholz said Ukraine "Ukraine is a member of the European family" and "We are backing Ukraine with arms delivery" We shall continue doing this as long as it is necessary."
European Commission to express its view
Zelenskyy vowed that Ukraine was prepared to put out the effort necessary to become a full-fledged EU member and stated that Ukrainians had already demonstrated they are deserving of candidate status.
"Ukraine has gotten the closest to EU it has ever been in the history of its independence," he remarked in his daily speech.
On Friday, the European Commission will provide its official verdict on Ukraine's formal EU candidacy application, which all 27 member states must approve.
Ukraine, already a developing country with a reputation for corruption before Russia's invasion, may require several years to achieve membership requirements once it becomes a candidate.