Western media reports says the European Union (EU) leaders have voted to promote Ukraine and Moldova to candidate status.

European Council President Charles Michel reportedly made the announcement after discussions among leaders of the EU's 27 member states.

The EU has been largely united in backing Ukraine since Russia launched its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow.  Just four days after Russia launched its war, Ukraine applied to become a member of the EU.

Meanwhile, Deutsch Welle (DW) says joining the bloc, though, will likely take years, with reforms to conform to European standards still required.  

According to it, member nations were initially divided on how quickly the bloc should accept Ukraine as a member, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark among the most skeptical.

The BBC reports that the President of the European Council Charles Michel said the accession process would be "merit-based" and "by the book", and that formal negotiations would not begin until conditional reforms are carried out.  These include bolstering the rule of law, and fighting corruption.  The Commission is due to take stock at the end of 2022.

The step is undoubtedly a big moment for Ukraine, and a popular one.

While Moldova's application was accepted, a third former Soviet republic, Georgia, has still to qualify for candidacy.

Mr. Michel said that the Council recognized the country's "European perspective" and was "ready to grant candidate status once the outstanding priorities are addressed."