War in Ukraine: Von der Leyen promises Zelensky in kyiv to speed up the EU accession process and more money for arms | International
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The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has taken advantage of her symbolic visit to Ukraine this Friday to promise President Volodímir Zelensky to speed up his country’s EU accession process and increase the supply fund by 500 million euros. armament. “While Russia falls into an economic, financial and technological decline, Ukraine walks towards a European future”, he assured at a press conference in kyiv after returning with the head of community diplomacy, Josep Borrell, from the scene of one of the largest horrors of war, the town of Bucha, where, said the leader, “the unthinkable has happened.”
To illustrate the commitment to accelerate entry into the community club, von der Leyen has hand-delivered to Zelensky a technical document of the accession process, which Ukraine requested shortly after the Russian invasion began. “It will not be a matter of years, as usual, to form an opinion, but of weeks, I think,” said Von der Leyen in the main act of a visit that has also served to announce the reopening of the EU diplomatic mission in kyiv as a sign of normalcy and confidence that the Government of kyiv holds the reins of the country.
The document, which both leaders leafed through with a smile at the end of the appearance, is called a questionnaire in community jargon. It serves the European Commission to measure the readiness of a country to obtain candidate status. The Commission does not decide on the entry of a country into the Union, but it does form the “opinion” that Von der Leyen mentioned about recommending it to the European Council, that is, the 27 member countries that have to approve it unanimously. Zelensky undertook to complete it within a week.
With the announcement of an increase in military aid made during the visit, the community allocation to supply Ukraine with weapons now totals 1,500 million. “The least we can do is give you weapons,” said Borrell, looking at Zelenski, in a brief participation in the appearance. “You need guns, guns, guns.”
Beyond the announcements, the displacement – which began with the arrival by train from Poland early in the morning and in which the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Eduard Heger, also participated – has a clear symbolic component for two reasons. On the one hand, due to the force of the image of two prominent community leaders meeting with Zelensky in kyiv itself, whose capture seemed imminent on the third day of the invasion, when Russian troops were fighting with the Ukrainians on a bridge a few kilometers from the palace. presidential.
The visit, the highest level to the city in the 44 days of war, has taken place once the Russian forces have withdrawn from the surroundings of the country’s capital to concentrate their offensive in the south and east of the territory, where an attack on the Kramatorsk train station has killed at least 50 people trying to escape the war this Friday. Borrell defined the bombing on Twitter as “one more attempt to close the exit routes for those fleeing this unjustified war” and, later, Von der Leyen dedicated the adjectives “appalling”, “horrible” and “atrocious”.
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It is also symbolic for including Bucha, a city northwest of kyiv whose images of civilian corpses – some handcuffed – in the streets and mass graves have become iconic and spurred this Thursday the first sanctions against the Russian energy sector and the expulsion of Moscow of the UN Human Rights Council with 79% of the valid votes.
“We have seen the cruel face of Putin’s army. We have seen recklessness and lack of compassion there, ”said Von der Leyen in Bucha. In kyiv, Borrell has declared himself “very moved” by what he has witnessed there, has spoken directly of “war crimes” and has promised the help of the EU to the Ukrainian prosecutors who are investigating whether the Russian troops committed them, facing to the International Criminal Court.
Since his arrival in the Ukrainian capital, Borrell wanted to underline the meaning of his presence. “Ukraine controls its territory. It is not an invaded, dominated country. There is still a government that receives people from abroad and you can travel to kyiv”, he declared. In the subsequent press conference with Zelenski he has returned to that idea by mentioning the “failure” of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in the face of the “courage” of Ukraine. To underline the Russian withdrawal, he has confirmed the reopening of the EU diplomatic mission. “I can confirm that the EU returns to kyiv. It is literal: our head of delegation is going back to kyiv, so we will be able to work even more directly and more closely”, he assured.
European leaders arrived with a recent achievement in the suitcase: the first sanctions on Russia’s energy sector. The fifth package of measures, approved on Thursday, includes a ban on imports of Russian coal that was not in the draft a week ago. At the press conference, Von der Leyen defended their effectiveness as “harmful and intelligent, because they harm Russia more than us”, but Zelenski considered them “insufficient” and called for new “profound” measures and the “application full” of the above. Viktor Orbán’s Hungary opposes any further step, such as turning off the tap on Russian oil or gas.
In their meetings with Zelensky and the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denis Shmihal, Von der Leyen and Borrell have conveyed “a very strong message: the EU is with you”, said the President of the Commission. “Your fight is our fight,” she added. The Ukrainian president has considered the visit “a very powerful signal that Ukraine and the EU are together”.
The displacement has been marked by strong security measures. The place of the press conference after the meeting with Zelensky was kept secret and the journalists were summoned at the last minute to a meeting point. Already early in the morning, the Slovak Prime Minister confirmed on Twitter the arrival in kyiv from the Przemsil train station a few minutes after Borrell announced that they were on their way and Von der Leyen expressed his desire to reach the capital. Ukraine’s presidential spokesman, Sergii Nikiforov, already stated at the time that hardly any details would be announced for security reasons.
The Prime Minister of Slovakia has offered Zelenski his country’s help to sell Ukrainian wheat and contain the increase in its price throughout the world, 22% since the beginning of the Russian invasion. The proposal is that Ukraine, a large producer of this cereal, exports it through the logistics hub of Kosice, a Slovak city very close to the Hungarian border and a few dozen kilometers from the Ukraine.
The leaders will participate in Warsaw on Saturday in a fundraising event for war refugees. His visit is the second by community representatives after the one made last week by the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, who also met with Zelenski. On March 15, when the situation around kyiv was more dangerous, the Polish prime ministers, Mateusz Morawiecki, traveled with his deputy prime minister and leader of the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski; from Slovenia, Janez Jansa, and from the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, in an initiative from which the European Commission distanced itself.
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