Commission response ‘by the end of next week’ on Kyiv’s ambitions, says von der Leyen

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 on its European journey,” von der Leyen said in a short press conference after his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as fighting continued in the east with Russian soldiers who invaded the country on February 24.

“Today’s discussions will allow us to finalize our assessment by the end of next week”, she added, so that the Commission can make a recommendation to the Member States.

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

She hailed Ukraine’s “solid and well-founded” parliamentary and presidential system, praising its administration despite “incredible circumstances” and citing the high level of digitalization and decentralization reforms.

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

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

Ursula von der Leyen made a short visit to Maidan Square in Kyiv after meeting Zelenskyy, touring the city’s historic quarter.

For his part, Zelenskyy said EU membership would be positive for the European project, given the actions of Vladimir Putin.

“The whole of Europe is a target for Russia, and Ukraine is only the first stage of aggression in these plans,” the Ukrainian president said at the press conference alongside von der Leyen.

“This is why the positive response of the European Union to Ukraine’s application for membership can be a positive response to the question of whether the European project has a future.”

Zelenskyy has called for a new round of “even tougher” EU sanctions against Russia, targeting more officials, including judges, and hampering the operations of all Russian banks, including the gas giant’s bank. Gazprom, as well as all Russian companies helping Moscow “in any way”. ”.

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

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

And even if Ukraine achieves “candidate status”, it will start a process of negotiations and potential reforms that could take years, if not decades, before it is on the verge of joining the EU. . Several EU states have thus dampened Kyiv’s hopes of an “accelerated” process.

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

Aurora J. William