The European Commission has backed Ukraine and Moldova to become candidates for EU membership.
there would be conditions and that the war-torn country would not get preferential treatment over other countries that have been in negotiations to join the 27-country bloc for years.
But leaders of EU countries will have the final say at a summit in Brussels on 23-24 June.
The announcement was welcomed by both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Moldovan counterpart Maia Sandu.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in the case of Ukraine that "we all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective, we want them to live with us, the EU".
She praised the country's pre-war reforms to tackle corruption, curb the influence of oligarchs and strengthen the rights of minorities although she noted that "we want to see results on the ground".
She also flagged that the country enjoys a "very robust parliamentary, presidential democracy" and that its public administration has kept the country going despite the war. She also noted that "Ukraine has a very vibrant and active civil society".
"To conclude on Ukraine, we have one clear message and that is, yes Ukraine deserves European perspective, yes Ukraine should be welcome as a candidate country," she told reporters.
Candidate status for Moldova too, not Georgia
Moldova too has a solid foundation in place to reach the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the economic integration with the EU, the Commission concluded.
"Provided the country’s leaders stay on course, we believe that the country has the potential to live up to the requirements," von der Leyen said.
In the case of Georgia, however, the Commission said it should only be given "European perspective" but that it should only get candidate status once a number of priorities have been addressed.
"It is a huge step forward for Georgia to get the European perspective, this is a big achievement, and the door is wide open," the Commisison head stressed. "It is up to Georgia now to take the necessary steps" which "also determines, of course, the timeframe".
"The sooner you deliver, the sooner there is progress," von der Leyen said.
'Historic decision' for Ukraine
Zelenskyy took to Twitter to "commend the positive Commission's conclusion" which he described as a "historic decision".
"It's the first step on the EU membership path that'll certainly bring our victory closer," he also wrote, adding that he now expects "a positive result" at the European Council level when EU leaders meet next week.
Sandu said the Commission's recommendation sends a "strong signal of support for Moldova and our citizens", vowing the country will be "working hard" to undertake the additional reforms required and that they now "count on EU Council support."
France, Germany, and Italy also backing Ukraine
It comes a day after leaders of the bloc's three biggest member states — France, Germany and Italy — made their long-awaited first trip to Kyiv and clearly stated their backing for Ukraine's bid.
France's Emmanuel Macron insisted that it would provide "a strong, quick, expected gesture of hope and clarity that we want to send to Ukraine and its people" while Germany's Olaf Scholz stated that "Ukraine belongs to the European family".
They stressed, however, that there would be conditions and that the war-torn country would not get preferential treatment over other countries that have been in negotiations to join the 27-country bloc for years.
Any country that wishes to join the EU must fulfil what is known as the "Copenhagen criteria" for a functioning market economy, a stable democracy and the rule of law, and the acceptance of all EU legislation, including the euro. These usually require the candidate country to undertake a series of reforms.