Von der Leyen holds talks with Ukraine over EU membership in Kyiv

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with a Ukrainian flag and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. ((Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The visit to Kyiv by the European Union’s central institutions and senior officials shows that Ukraine has made significant progress towards EU membership and sends a message to investors that Ukraine will continue on this path, European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday at a joint meeting of the EU and the Ukrainian government in Kyiv.

“My colleagues and I are here not only to discuss further assistance, but also to discuss steps to bring Ukraine even closer to the European Union,” Von der Leyen was quoted as saying by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency in front of the Ukrainian government. “The fact that we are meeting here today in Kyiv is a strong sign of the huge progress already made and of our shared commitment,” she added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the summit there would be no more obstacles to negotiations on Ukraine’s full EU membership this year. He expressed hope that this spring the European Commission would assess Ukraine’s implementation of the seven recommendations it received when it applied for EU candidate status.

Several obstacles remain to be hurdled before Ukraine should be eligible to join the European Union, with critics citing flaws in the country’s democracy, media freedom, and the treatment of minority groups in the country as issues needing to be addressed.

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The country’s economy has also been shattered following a year of continuous warfare, and a significant rebuilding program is likely to plunge the country into further debt, save for further economic aid from Western allies.

In Kyiv, Ursula von der Leyen announced the setting up of an international tribunal in The Hague to investigate war crimes in Ukraine, as the Commission president traveled to Ukraine to pledge military, financial, and political support as the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of war approaches. She said the Hague-based body to be set up would coordinate the collection of evidence and work with the EU body Eurojust, which will send teams of investigators to the various sites.

The Hague International Criminal Tribunal has closed major trials for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia in recent years, including last year when it was revealed that Ratko Mladic would remain in prison for life.

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