Ukraine just got a big boost for its EU membership bid on Friday, with the 27-member nation bloc's executive giving full support for its candidate status. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced for the first time that the commission recommends "that Ukraine is given candidate status. This is of course on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further reforms."
She said further while speaking from Brussels, "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." Von der Leyen included further: "We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream."
"Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country — this is based on the understanding that good work has been done but important work also remains to be done," von der Leyen said.
The day prior, on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi traveled to Kiev by train where they delivered a unified and "strong signal of support" to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. They publicly backed Ukraine's path to the EU, urging "immediate EU candidate status."
Currently France holds the rotating EU presidency. It's leader Macron said while in Kiev of EU candidacy status, "This status will be accompanied by a roadmap and will also involve taking into account the situation in the Balkans and the neighboring area, notably Moldova."
While putting forward Modova, absent was any mention of Georgia, which is not being considered, angering Georgian leaders who have lashed out at Brussels. As for Ukraine, even with enthusiastic supporting from leading EU countries, the process for potential membership is still expected to take years, possibly even decades, as some officials have warned.
Later on Friday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the EU candidacy decision as a "first step on the EU membership path that'll certainly bring our victory closer." He thanked von der Leyen for the commission's "historic decision" – but which will await formal approval at the June 23 to 24 EU summit. Zelensky said his country is eagerly expecting a "positive result".
Looming heavy in the background is Moscow deciding this week to dial up the pressure on Europe by drastically reducing flows of natural gas for its biggest customers in Western Europe, sending Energy prices surging higher.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in statements issued the same day as von der Leyen's EU candidacy preliminary approval announcement stressed the growing 'cost' to Europe over its intransigent pro-Ukraine position and anti-Russia sanctions. He estimated that the European Union will incur "losses of at least $400 billion" due to its multiple waves of sanctions imposed on Moscow thus far.
He once again rejected responsibility for the global economic downturn, stating instead that inflation, energy costs and food crisis are all linked to the West's policies. He further predicted a potentially disastrous development for the global food supply, already under threat, according to news wires:
Putin predicted the fertilizer shortage could push food prices even higher, adding that Russia could boost its exports of fertilizer and grain. He also claimed that "gloomy forecasts" about the state of the Russian economy did not come true and that his government has successfully stopped the rise of domestic inflation. "After a peak of 17.8%, inflation is now at 16.7% and continues to decline," he said, noting that public finances are stable and the authorities are taking measures to further cool down the economy.
However, in the statements Putin emphasized of the fertilizer and food production crisis triggered in the wake of the war that "Russia cannot be blamed for it" while saying it's not yet today's problem, suggesting that appropriate action and a response from the West could allay the coming crisis.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is driving a severe global fertilizer shortage causing food prices to rise.
The House just passed the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, which includes my amendment to help lower costs for farmers and hardworking Americans. pic.twitter.com/W30my0NikA
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) June 16, 2022
Regardless, US leaders are mounting an attack, blaming Putin full-stop for a "sever global fertilizer shortage" – as Rep. Khanna argued from the floor Thursday, as Congress takes steps attempting to shield US farmers and thus American consumers from the coming impact.