A summit between the European Union and Ukraine was held in kyiv on Friday, the first meeting between the club of 27 and the embattled country. In addition to a new package of sanctions against Russia, the discussions focused on Ukraine’s accession to the European bloc, without setting a clear timetable.
Anti-aircraft sirens sounded twice on Friday in the Ukrainian capital during this unprecedented meeting between the Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelenski, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and a fortnight of European commissioners.
Sirens went off in the rest of the country as well, but no Russian missile launches were reported.
Ukraine’s accession to the European bloc had a central place in the discussions. In a joint statement, the community leaders and the President of Ukraine stressed that Ukraine is making “considerable efforts” to achieve “the objectives on which its status as a candidate for EU membership is based”, which was granted in record time in June last year, after the start of the Russian invasion in February.
“Today’s summit shows that our integration is irreversible,” Zelensky said before Von der Leyen and Michel.
They affirmed that the EU will continue to “support further European integration of Ukraine” and will decide on the next steps “once all the conditions are fully met” in the latest Brussels opinion on the matter.
Ukraine, for its part, underlined its “determination to fulfill the necessary requirements to start accession negotiations as soon as possible.” This is a priority for Zelensky, who believes that his country deserves to start accession talks “this year.”
However, the European bloc did not commit to granting Ukraine an accelerated accession procedure. “There is no strict timetable, but the objectives must be met,” Von der Leyen declared at the post-match press conference.
The EU insisted on the need for Ukraine to continue its anti-corruption measures and reform its judiciary to protect it from political interference. The accession process, with its multiple political, economic and legal criteria, takes years anyway, even for a candidate country that is not at war.
This summit was held three weeks before the first anniversary of the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, which left tens of thousands dead, displaced millions, and sparked a global food and energy crisis.
“We are not going to give up Bakhmut”
Volodimir Zelensky took advantage of the summit to ask his allies to provide him with long-range weapons to repel Russian forces, especially in the Bakhmut region.
“We are not going to give up Bakhmut, we will fight as long as we are able to, it is our strength,” the Ukrainian president said on Friday.
“If (arms deliveries) are accelerated, especially long-range ones, we will be able not only to remain in Bakhmut, but to retake Donbass, which has been occupied since 2014,” he also told a joint press conference after the summit.
Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting a battle of attrition against Russian forces in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine for several months, where heavy fighting continues.
New sanctions against Russia
Von der Leyen hopes to have the tenth package of sanctions against Russia ready on February 24, coinciding with the anniversary of the war. New measures that, according to him, will have an impact of 10,000 million euros and with which more dual-use goods will be sanctioned.
The restrictive measures will affect more components of drones that Russia uses to bomb Ukraine. This was stated by Von der Leyen, stating that the tenth package of sanctions would affect “commerce and technology that support Russia’s war machine.”
EU countries agreed on Friday on a Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products from Sunday in order to limit Moscow’s ability to finance the war.
They include a cap of $100 for premium oil products, such as diesel, and a limit of $45 a barrel for discounted products, such as fuel oil, according to diplomats.
The trip also culminates with the EU’s commitment to train a total of 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers to learn how to handle the weapons that Western countries give them to fight the Kremlin, as a sign of “unwavering support” for independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.
The high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, during a visit to a unit of sappers on the outskirts of kyiv, also announced 25 million euros to help demining Ukraine. “Demining action is crucial to save the lives of the civilian population, to allow them to return to a normal life, to avoid the random walk of death through the forest,” he said.
On her Twitter account, Ursula von der Leyen wrote: “Ukraine is a true inspiration for Europe. We will support its speedy recovery and reconstruction. And we will make Russia pay for the brutal destruction it is causing.”
Ukraine is a true inspiration for Europe.
We will support your fast recovery and your reconstruction.
And we will make Russia pay for the brutal destruction it is causing ↓ https://t.co/IAtQqMWing
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) February 3, 2023
The EU and Ukraine reiterated their commitment to hold Russia to account for the invasion. While kyiv “emphasized its preference” for establishing a special court to judge war crimes, in Brussels there is no unanimity on the legal basis on which it should be based, although they did agree to create a center in The Hague to help investigate crimes.
With Reuters, EFE, AFP and AP