On Thursday, head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and 15 European commissioners arrived in Kyiv. They will negotiate with Ukraine’s leadership, which is hoping for news of the country’s rapid move towards EU membership, but European diplomats are signaling that this could take a considerable amount of time.
The European Commission said in a statement that the meeting in Kyiv “will allow us to exchange views on many areas of cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, to discuss future reconstruction, as well as the country’s European path.” Von der Leyen tweeted a photo at a train station in Kiev and wrote: “It’s nice to be back in Kiev – for the fourth time since the start of the Russian invasion.”
Experts expect that at the Ukrainian-European summit in Kyiv, for the first time, Brussels will comment at a high level on whether Ukraine has come close to joining the European Union over the past seven months.
President Zelensky called the summit a week of European integration. He signaled that Kyiv expects specific solutions from its European partners, given the success his country has shown in moving towards the EU, despite a full-scale Russian invasion.
In the spring, Ukraine urgently applied for EU membership, and the EU unheard of quickly – in June – granted the country the status of an accession candidate .
On the eve of the summit, Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmygal said that the country had set itself an ambitious goal – to join the EU in two years. But several EU member states called on the leadership of the union to explain to the Ukrainian authorities that it was impossible to do this within such a time frame.
The EU accession process usually takes several years, and there are currently several countries in the queue. In addition to Ukraine, Albania (in 2014), Moldova (in 2022), North Macedonia (in 2005), Montenegro (in 2008), Serbia (in 2009) and Turkey (in 1999).
The Ukraine-EU summit is a key event in relations between Kyiv and Brussels. Usually they take place towards the end of the year to take stock of cooperation over the past 12 months, sign documents or announce breakthrough solutions.
But in 2022, due to the war, the summit was postponed several times and in the end it was decided to hold it at the beginning of 2023. The time and place were finalized only on January 9th.