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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the executive arm’s opinion on Ukraine’s candidate status to join the EU will reflect “carefully” a lot progress made by the country over the past decade, but also that “much still needs to be done.”
“I hope in 20 years when we are looking back we can say we did the right thing,” Von der Leyen told a group of journalists on her way back from Kyiv late on Saturday. “The challenge will be to come out of the council with a united position, which reflects the enormity of these historic decisions.”
The commission is expected to recommend on June 17 that Ukraine be granted candidate status to join the bloc with conditions linked to the rule of law and anti-corruption measures. EU leaders will discuss the opinion on June 23-24 at a summit in Brussels and all 27 member states will need to endorse the recommendation.
“We have been working day and night on this assessment,” she said at a joint press appearance with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Saturday.
Half a dozen countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark, remain skeptical about Ukraine’s readiness to start the membership negotiations that could last around a decade. Some are also concerned about giving Ukraine preference over existing applicants because of the ongoing war.
Von der Leyen Says Ukraine’s EU Bid Advancing During Kyiv Visit
The milestone would open an arduous membership process that could last more than a decade in which the country must adopt EU rules and standards.
Von der Leyen’s visit to Ukraine was her second since Russia’s invasion and came as Kyiv is struggling to cover a financial gap of around 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) per month.
She visited a hospital with wounded soldiers in Kyiv and took a brief tour of the historic Maidan square, where the streetlights were adorned with flowers and the streets were bustling with people.
At her appearance with Zelenskiy, she said that Europe is mourning with Ukraine for its losses. “But I also see, here in Kyiv, that life is springing back,” she added. “I see that people are clearing the rubbles, you are building again the bridges, people are returning from abroad, they are coming back to the city -- and this is a good sign.”
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