The European Commission on Friday recommended war-torn Ukraine be formally named a "candidate" for joining the EU, a move that could open up a years-long path towards joining the bloc.
"Yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country -- this is based on the understanding that good work has been done but important work also remains to be done," Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU's executive arm, said.
"We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us for the European dream," von der Leyen said, dressed in the yellow and blue colours of Ukraine.
The EU's 27 member states have to give the green light to grant Ukraine "candidate status" and leaders are set to discuss it at a summit in Brussels next week.
Opening the door to Ukraine is seen as a hugely symbolic moment by Kyiv as it seeks to cement its place within Europe in the face of Russia's invasion.
Some EU countries, such as the Netherlands, remain sceptical about being pressured into accepting Ukraine too quickly, but diplomats say they expect leaders to sign off on the first step.
The leaders of the three EU powerhouses, France, Germany and Italy, on Thursday threw their weight behind Ukraine's bid on a visit to Kyiv.
If it is granted the first step, Ukraine still faces a complicated process of reforms that means it could take decades before it actually joins the EU.
Von der Leyen said making Kyiv a candidate should be done "on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further important reforms" before moving on to the next stage of formal negotiations.
She pointed to judicial reforms needed and greater efforts to root out widespread corruption and curb the influence of powerful oligarchs.
Von der Leyen announced the commission also recommended granting candidate status for Moldova, Ukraine's ex-Soviet neighbour, but held off on taking the same step on Georgia.
Moldova and Georgia, which also have part of their territories occupied by Russia, put in bids to join the bloc in Kyiv's streamline.
The EU chief said the Georgia should be given a "European perspective" that could lead to becoming a candidate if more reforms were taken.
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