On Wednesday afternoon, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo had a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to confirm that Belgium will support Ukraine's EU candidate membership at today's European Council.
The European Commission's opinion on Friday summed up the conditions that need to be fulfilled by Ukraine before it can become an effective member of the EU, including the country's fight against corruption, the internal market and the protection of minorities.
"[Today], we as European Member States will be sending an important symbolic signal: Ukraine belongs to the European family," De Croo said. "Ukrainians are fighting for our European values of freedom and democracy. With the granting of candidate status, the work for Ukraine is only just beginning, a work of many years."
He stressed that it will require "a great deal of effort," for example to tackle corruption and build a functioning rule of law. "But I am convinced that precisely the reconstruction of Ukraine offers a great opportunity to take important steps forward."
In practice, this means that Ukraine will still have to go through a very long process before it can officially become a member of the EU, which will be "a work of many years."
De Croo and Zelenskyy also discussed the reconstruction of Ukraine, as showing resilience to Russia today also means starting the reconstruction now, they said.
- 'Not a photo-op': Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv
- 'Peace is worth more than diamonds': Zelenskyy addresses Belgium's Parliament
- War in Ukraine: King Philippe expresses 'great anger' at Russia
Zelenskyy thanked Belgium for its support, as well as for its assistance during Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Belgium was one of the first countries to send support, weapons and troops to the war zone.
On Twitter, Zelenskyy also stated that he expects Belgium "to make a significant contribution to the reconstruction of Ukraine" and added that he invited De Croo to visit the country.
At the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 June, the leaders will not only discuss the membership application from Ukraine, but also from the Republic of Moldova and Georgia.
Ukraine applied for EU membership on 28 February 2022, followed by Georgia and Moldova both on 3 March.