‘Time has come’ for EU membership, Zelenskyy tells von der Leyen

Kyiv, May 9 (EFE).- Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday urged European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to open talks on his country joining the European Union.

Von der Leyen was in Kyiv to mark Europe Day, which commemorates the end of World War II on the continent.

“The time has come to remove the artificial political uncertainty in the relations between Ukraine and the EU,” Zelenskyy told reporters at a joint press conference with the EC chief.

“The time has come for a positive decision to open negotiations on Ukraine’s membership in the European Union,” he continued.

“Our values are security. Our well-being is peace on the continent. All this can be 100% realized for Europe only together with Ukraine,” the Ukrainian leader added.

Von der Leyen welcomed the progress Ukraine has made in meeting requirements to launch negotiations for its EU accession.

“Indeed it is impressive to see that despite full-blown war Ukraine is working hard, tirelessly and intensively on the seven steps” outlined by the EU, von der Leyen told reporters, although she added that “the work must continue.”

The Commission will share a preliminary report over the summer on Ukraine’s progress, von der Leyen said, but stressed that the final decision on formally opening accession talks would take place in October.

The European Council granted Ukraine candidate status in June last year with all 27 member states ruling in favor.

Zelenskyy also thanked the EU for its most recent aid package of €2 billion agreed last week to finance the supply of artillery ammunition to Ukraine.

Ukraine told the EU in late April that it would need at least 18 billion euros in 2024 to rebuild the war-torn country, the same amount the bloc has earmarked in assistance for Ukraine this year.

Von der Leyen confirmed that the EU was “working on financial support beyond 2023.”

The two leaders also discussed economic sanctions on Russia, with the EC chief outlining the bloc’s 11th package of measures, which are still being negotiated.

“We continue to do everything in our power to erode Putin’s war machine and his revenues,” von der Leyen said. “Our sanctions are working.”

Von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv hours after Russian forces struck the capital overnight with missiles.

On Monday, Ukraine announced it was moving Victory Day celebrations to May 8, to match other European countries. Historically Ukraine has marked the event on May 9, in line with the Kremlin. Zelenskyy also submitted a bill to mark Europe Day on May 9.

“I very much welcome President Zelenskyy’s decision to make May 9 the Day of Europe,” von der Leyen told reporters on the train she took to Kyiv. “Ukraine is part of our European family.”

“My presence in Kyiv today on May 9 is symbolic, but it is also the sign of a crucial and very practical reality: the EU is working hand in hand with Ukraine on many issues,” she added.

This is von der Leyen’s fifth visit to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-blown invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.EFE


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