Factbox: Ukraine's road to becoming European Union member

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, France's President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet for a working session in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS, June 17 (Reuters) - The European Union's executive on Friday supported giving formal membership candidate status to Ukraine, a major political shift brought about by Russia's invasion. read more

The Commission made the same recommendation for Moldova, but said Georgia was not yet ready for candidacy. All three have separatist regions backed by Russia.

Here are some hurdles the former Soviet states would have to clear to join the EU.

TIMING

While the recommendation marks a strategic eastward shift by the EU in the face of Russia's war in Ukraine, Kyiv would likely take years to become a member of the 27-nation EU, if at all.

Ukraine would be required to carry out economic and political reforms and it is unlikely the bloc would take in a country in a state of war.

At times of peace, it took Poland, Ukraine's neighbour with similar population size and communist history, 10 years from applying for membership in 1994 to actually joining in 2004.

Turkey, on the other hand, got formal candidate status in 1999 but currently has no prospect of joining.

Membership talks stopped as ties between Ankara and the bloc soured, including over President Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on critics following an attempted 2016 coup, and other examples of what the bloc says is erosion of democracy and the rule of law.

The six Balkan countries' EU membership bids have also been complicated in recent years by issues including migration, organised crime and mutual disagreements in the region.

PROCESS AND REFORMS

EU leaders will discuss the Commission's membership candidate proposal for Ukraine during a summit in Brussels on June 23-24. They all need to agree for the status to be formally granted.

Once that happens, Kyiv will start negotiations on aligning its laws with those of the EU.

"Ukraine has already implemented roughly 70% of EU rules, norms and standards. Yet important work remains to be done, on the rule of law, oligarchs, anti-corruption and fundamental rights," said Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen.

Moldova - another formerly communist country that now seeks to move way from Moscow's orbit - was "on a real pro-reform, anti-corruption and European path", von der Leyen said, though still had "a long way to go."

Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, must overcome political polarisation to be able to advance reforms needed to move towards EU membership, she said.

For all three, the Commission recommended building up independent judiciaries as well as quality public services, combating organised crime and excessive influence of vested interests in public life.

POLITICAL WILL

If and when all this is done, Ukraine's accession must be approved by all EU governments and the European Parliament, which means the process can always be stalled by politics.

The Netherlands, France and Germany have been among EU countries opposing bringing in new members in recent years.

But Kyiv won the crucial backing of Paris and Berlin - the bloc's top powers - when their leaders declared in Kyiv on Thursday that Ukraine belonged in the "European family". read more

On Friday the Dutch government announced it would back Ukraine's EU candidate status, calling the European Commission's advice "a smart compromise". "The country still has a lot of homework", Dutch prime minister mark Rutte said during his weekly news conference.

The new geo-political momentum since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb.24 marks a leap forward for Kyiv on its path towards EU membership - without determining the final outcome.

The EU's last major enlargement was in 2004 when eight formerly communist eastern countries - including the Baltic States, Poland and Slovenia - joined. Romania and Bulgaria followed in 2007.

Croatia was the last one to join in 2013 but the bloc since lost one when Britain in 2020 became the first ever country to leave.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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