EU's Von Der Leyen Says Initial Assessment On Ukraine Membership Due Next Week
The European Commission will provide a clear signal next week on Ukraine's EU candidate status bid, its chief Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday, as fighting raged in the east and south of the country. Making a surprise visit to Kyiv, von der Leyen said talks she held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "will enable us to finalize our assessment by the end of next week" -- the first time the bloc has publicly given a timing. Zelensky has been pressing for rapid admission into the European Union as a way of reducing Ukraine's geopolitical vulnerability, which was brutally exposed by Russia's February 24 invasion.
But officials and leaders in the bloc caution that, even with candidacy status, actual EU membership could take years or even decades. Von der Leyen, appearing alongside Zelensky during her second visit to Kyiv since the war began, did not hold out any promises, noting further reforms were needed. "You have done a lot in strengthening the rule of law but there is still a need for reforms to be implemented, to fight corruption for example," she told the joint press conference.
At the same conference, Zelenskiy said: "All of Europe is a target for Russia, and Ukraine is just the first stage in this aggression". "This is why a positive EU response to the Ukrainian application for membership can be a positive answer to the question of whether the European project has a future at all," he added.
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