Ukraine is set to be approved as an EU candidate at a Brussels summit on Thursday after the European Commission gave the green light.
Ukraine applied days after the Russian invasion in February, and the process has since moved at a record speed.
Its ambassador to the EU said it would be a psychological boost for Ukrainians.
But Vsevolod Chentsov admitted, “real integration” could only start when the war was over.
Candidate status is the first official step toward EU membership and France said this week there was “total consensus” on Ukraine. But it can take many years to join and there’s no guarantee of success.
The Western Balkan countries of Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have been candidate countries for years; in some cases for over a decade. Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for candidacy in 2016 but has still not succeeded.
EU leaders also meet their Western Balkan counterparts on Thursday morning, ahead of the main summit, to “build on the existing close ties”, but discussions are expected to be difficult.
Some members states are pushing for Bosnia to be given candidate status, although that is not expected to happen. However, there are hopes North Macedonia and Albania may make progress.
Moldova’s application is also recommended for conditional approval while Georgia is set to be turned down, although the European Commission said the country could belong to the EU in “due time”. More than 100,000 people attended a rally on Monday night in the Georgian capital appealing for candidate status.
Several EU states have agreed to back Ukraine’s candidacy, provided conditions are attached before accession negotiations can begin, including judicial and anti-corruption reforms.
Mr Chentsov has insisted some reforms can take place, even while the country is at war and not in control of its whole territory.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES