*Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union has been given a major boost with a recommendation that it be granted candidate status
*But the European Commission says the country must make reforms – on rule of law, oligarchs, human rights and tackling corruption
*Ukrainians have shown they are “ready to die” for their European aspirations, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says
*It comes after four European leaders travelled to Kyiv on Thursday and publicly supported Ukraine’s admission to the bloc
*President Putin is due to give a speech at an economic forum in St Petersburg later with Russia under heavy economic sanctions from the West
*And Ukraine says Russia is concentrating its forces for an assault on the eastern city of Slovyansk, while fighting is continuing for control of Severodonetsk
Ursula von der Leyen says Ukraine has the right to decide its own path.
But she adds that although it is “up to the country”, the EU’s expectations are very clear.
She said these include ensuring respect for international law as well as the need for certain reforms to be carried out as a condition of candidate status.
“Every sovereign country has the right to determine its own future and to decide where to go and what to do,” she says.
Continuing her news conference, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Ukrainians are “ready to die” for the European perspective.
She adds: “We want them to live with us in the European dream.”
“This is of course on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further important reforms,” von der Leyen adds.
“In the view of the Commission, Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards.”
Moldova gets EU’s green light, but Georgia doesn’t
The European Commission is welcoming Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership.
But Georgia, another former Soviet republic, is being asked to meet certain conditions before being granted the same status.
“[Moldova] is s on a real pro-reform, anti-corruption and European path,” Ursula von der Leyen says.
“Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU.” (BBC)