Europe

Von der Leyen promises response on Ukraine’s EU bid ‘next week’

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on a surprise visit to Kyiv on Saturday, promised a response “next week” to Ukraine’s ambitions to apply for EU membership.

“We want to support Ukraine in its European journey,” von der Leyen said at a short press conference following her meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as fighting continued in the east with Russian soldiers who invaded the country on 24 February.

“The discussions today will enable us to finalise our assessment by the end of next week,” she added, in order for the Commission to make a recommendation to member states.

Von der Leyen stressed that the Ukrainian authorities had “done a lot” regarding the country’s candidacy, saying it was already “on a good track” even before Russia’s “horrible and atrocious invasion”.

She praised Ukraine’s “solid, well-grounded” parliamentary and presidential system, praising its administration despite “incredible circumstances”, and citing the high level of digitisation and decentralisation reforms.

The focus was on overcoming the war, the president added, but said more reforms were needed, especially in the fight against corruption and encouraging investment.

The head of the European Commission was also due to meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal during this visit to Kyiv, her second since the start of the war, the previous one having taken place on 8 April.

“I am back in Kyiv (…) We will take stock of the joint work needed for reconstruction and the progress made by Ukraine on the road to Europe,” she told journalists accompanying her on the visit earlier on Saturday.

Ukraine is demanding a concrete “legal commitment” by the end of June from the Europeans to obtain official candidate status for entry into the European Union, but the 27 countries are still very divided on the issue at this stage.

While many countries, mainly in Eastern Europe, support Ukraine’s membership, some, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, but also Germany and France, which holds the EU presidency until the end of June, are more reserved.

And even if Ukraine is granted “candidate status”, this will launch a process of negotiations and potential reforms that could take years, even decades, before it is on the verge of joining the EU. Several EU states have thus dampened Kyiv’s hopes for an “accelerated” process.

During her previous visit on 8 April, Ursula von der Leyen assured that Ukraine had a “European future”.



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