The senior staff of the European Commission, led by President Ursula Von der Leyen and Vice President Josep Borrell, traveled to Kyiv yesterday to hold several working meetings with the Government of Ukraine, an unprecedented mission in an extraordinary context, the war, and the awareness of a common destiny, even if they disagree on the duration of the trip: the full integration of Ukraine into the European family.
“The future of Europe is being written right now in Ukraine,” said President Volodimir Zelenski, who faced yesterday’s meetings with one eye on the accession process to the European Union and another on the Russian enemy, against whom he asked for more tough on the EU. “This year there should be no obstacle to opening negotiations for Ukraine’s full accession to the EU. Ukraine will fulfill its part of the deal, it has to do it and it wants to do it, it is what society wants”, he emphasized.
In June last year, Ukraine received, in record time, the official status of a candidate for the EU. It is a step that other countries have taken decades to achieve and Kyiv, encouraged by Poland and the Baltic countries, wants to continue burning stages at the same speed. The Prime Minister, Denís Shmihal, reiterated yesterday in the presence of Von der Leyen that Ukraine plans to comply with the seven measures set as a precondition for opening entry negotiations at the end of this year.
Those talks, a process involving a profound transformation of the country’s administrative, political and economic structure that often takes more than a decade (there are nine Balkan countries in the waiting room), could be “closed” in just 12 months. , according to the calculations of Shmihal, who estimated that the Twenty-seven will take about two years to accept the enlargement and pointed out that the incorporation of Ukraine will take place in the year 2026.
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The enthusiasm and unbridled optimism of the Ukrainian authorities complicated Von der Leyen’s political task of responding to the country’s Europeanist aspirations while moderating and trying to lower such excessive political expectations. The most he could say is that “this is a merit-based process” that each country does and that each progresses at different rates. “The speed and expansion of Ukraine, while facing a terrible war, is impressive, and the European Commission will help you in any way it can,” said the German politician, without committing to any timetable.
The European strategy, as Von der Leyen herself already advanced in her speech on the State of the Union in September, consists of working to integrate the country as much as possible into the community club and several agreements were signed yesterday in Kyiv with the Ukrainian authorities that place it in a privileged position to access its internal market.
The country has been invited to participate in several key community initiatives, from the program to help SMEs to operate in the single market or the Euratom training courses, it will have its own office of the Horizon Europe research network and it will work with Brussels to accelerate the mutual recognition of industrial products, a measure that added to the extension of the suspension of tariffs throughout 2023 will accelerate its economic, factual, rapprochement with the EU. To date, the total financial support provided by the EU to Ukraine amounts to almost €50 billion.
Parallel to boosting Ukraine’s resilience, the EU continues with its strategy of suffocating the Kremlin economically. Von der Leyen assured yesterday that on February 24, one year after the start of the invasion, the Twenty-seven will approve the tenth package of sanctions against Moscow. “Today, Russia is paying a high price because our sanctions are eroding the Russian economy, taking it back a generation,” said the EC president, after Zelensky demanded that the EU not slow down the approval of new restrictive measures.
“The future of Europe is being written right now in Kyiv,” says Zelensky, who calls for more toughness with Russia
Borrell, for his part, announced a new contribution of 500 million euros to the Fund for Peace with which arms are financed for Kyiv and announced that the number of Ukrainian soldiers who will be trained within the training mission agreed upon by the EU last year, which will incorporate the handling of Leopard 2 tanks among its tasks.