EU chief in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's accession

EU chief in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's accession
This handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on November 3, 2023, shows Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during an award ceremony as he visits a training center to mark the "Missile Forces and Artillery and the Engineering Troops" Day at an undisclosed location in Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion - AFP

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on Saturday to discuss Ukraine's accession to the EU with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenksy.

Kyiv applied for EU membership just days after Russia's invasion on February 24, 2022, and received candidacy status several months later in a strong signal of support from Brussels.

"I'm here to discuss Ukraine's accession path to the EU," von der Leyen wrote on X, formerly Twitter, posting a picture of Zelensky greeting her on arrival at the Kyiv train station.

She added that they would also discuss the EU's "financial support to rebuild Ukraine as a modern, prosperous democracy."

Talks will also include "how we will continue to make Russia pay for its war of aggression," von der Leyen added.

The Commission has must submit a report by November 8 on the state of progress made by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and decide whether or not to open accession negotiations before 27-member bloc meet for an EU summit in December.

Enlargement will be at the core of the EU summit on December 14 and 15 in Brussels.

Saturday's visit marks the sixth by von der Leyen to Ukraine since the war began.

The EU chief told reporters Saturday that the "most important message is reassuring that we stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes".

The visit comes amid concern that support for Ukraine might wane as turmoil in the Middle East steals global attention.

Von der Leyen said that her trip had been planned for a "long time" and that it was a traditional visit to make before presenting a report on the enlargement of the EU.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters this week that Kyiv was on track to fulfil its obligations to open negotiations on EU membership, and von der Leyen acknowledged in September that Kyiv had made "great strides" in its bid for EU membership.

The EU is currently studying a new series of sanctions against Russia, and a long-term aid package to support Ukraine of 50 billion euros ($54 billion).

Further support for Ukraine is backed by almost all 27 EU countries, with only Hungary and Slovakia baulking.