Ukraine’s offer to join the European Union is the highest order of leaders, which is generally expected to be agreed as early as Thursday, the first day of a two-day summit.
The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark had been skeptical about opening accession negotiations while Ukraine fought against Russia’s invasion, but the European Commission’s support last week helped change their perspective.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had run a “telephone marathon” and called 11 European leaders on Wednesday, following talks with nine the day before.
He previously said he believed all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine’s candidate status.
“We deserve it,” he told the Amsterdam crowd via video link, and the move would be “a major motivating factor for the unity and victory of the Ukrainian people.”
EU candidate status can only be granted by unanimous agreement of the Member States, and is only the first step towards membership.
The EU is dampening Ukraine’s appeal for “immediate” membership despite strong support
It will take Ukraine at least a decade to meet the criteria for joining the EU, which means satisfying political and economic conditions.
European officials have said that Ukraine has already implemented about 70 percent of EU rules, norms and standards, but has also pointed to corruption and the need for profound political and economic reforms.
Strikes in the Donbas
Meanwhile, Russian attacks on the ground on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, were the worst in several weeks in an area where normal life had returned since Ukraine pushed back Moscow’s forces last month.
Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video that Russian forces struck Kharkiv in an attempt to force Ukraine to withdraw resources from the main battlefields in the Donbas to protect civilians.
In his nightly video speech released early on Thursday, Zelensky said there were massive air and artillery attacks in the Donbas,
Russia, he said, wants to “destroy the entire Donbaas step by step.”
He again pressed for a swift delivery of weapons from Western allies.