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BRUSSELS: Brussels on Wednesday said Ukraine had completed two of seven reform benchmarks set before formal negotiations on joining the European Union can start, diplomats said.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, issued the update in a meeting with the ambassadors from the bloc’s 27 countries.

The EU granted Ukraine candidate status for membership in a hugely symbolic move last June in the wake of Russia’s all-out invasion.

US to provide $1.3bn of additional aid to Ukraine, says Blinken

The commission laid out seven benchmarks for Kyiv seen as conditions to start accession talks, including bolstering the fight against widespread corruption and judicial reforms.

EU diplomats said that the two conditions completed related to cutting political influence in the media and reforms to its judiciary.

Ukraine was considered as having made “some progress” on the other five criteria, diplomats said.

The EU executive is set to issue a fuller assessment of Ukraine’s progress in October and give its opinion on whether to start membership negotiations.

Kyiv has been pushing to get talks going this year and insists it is making major strides at the same time as it battles Moscow’s forces.

Opening accession negotiations requires the approval of all 27 EU member states.

It still represents just an initial stage and would leave Kyiv facing what is likely years of painstaking reforms before it meets the EU’s rigorous demands to join the club.

EU nations such as Poland and the Baltic states are strongly backing Kyiv’s push for membership, while countries such as Germany and the Netherlands do not want to rush the process.

“The main sticking points for Ukraine are the reform of the constitutional court and a ‘sustainable track record’ on anti-corruption and de-oligarchisation,” one EU diplomat said.

“One could wonder whether a sustainable track record is feasible in four months’ time, if there isn’t one now.”

Ukraine’s former Soviet neighbour Moldova was also granted candidate status at the same time as Ukraine.

Diplomats said the commission reported Moldova had fulfilled three of nine conditions set on the path to opening membership talks.

According to the executive Causcasus nation Georgia, which also applied to join last year, had completed three of 12 benchmarks laid out to get candidate status, diplomats said.

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