Ursula von der Leyen met in Kiev with Volodymir Zelenski

Brussels proposes further integration to Ukraine prior to future membership

photo_camera PHOTO/JANIS LAIZANS - Ursula von der Leyen and Volodymir Zelenski

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed on Thursday in Kiev to Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenski that Ukraine should be able to participate in European cooperation programmes as it prepares its long process towards EU membership. 

"Dear Volodymir, your strength and determination to join the EU is impressive," Von der Leyen told Zelenski at a press conference after their meeting in Kiev on Thursday. 

"As Ukraine moves forward on its path towards the EU, we are tearing down even more barriers between our economies and societies. Today we are proposing to Ukraine to join key European programmes that will bring benefits in many areas similar to those of EU membership," the Commission President announced, without giving further details. 

Alongside Von der Leyen, some 15 European Commissioners arrived in Kiev on Thursday to discuss cooperation with their counterparts in the Ukrainian government. 

The German leader also stressed the work being carried out by the EU to try to guarantee Ukraine's energy security in the face of Russia's bombardment of the invaded country's essential infrastructure. 

"Putin's relentless bombardment of Ukrainian infrastructure is measured. He is trying to subject Ukrainians to a brutal winter, with little heat, electricity and water. But we are working together, tirelessly, to restore the vital energy infrastructure," Von der Leyen said. 

She announced, for example, the delivery of 2,400 new electricity generators to add to the 3,000 that the EU has already given to Ukraine since the beginning of the war on 24 February last year, as well as the supply of 30 million LED light bulbs.

She also said that the EU, together with the countries of the Energy Community - which also includes the Balkans, Turkey and Moldova, of which Ukraine is also a member - will give Kiev 150 million euros to enable it to buy energy equipment. 

This is in addition to the 50 billion euros that Brussels and EU countries have already given to Ukraine in military equipment, macro-financial assistance for the reconstruction of the country and the day-to-day running of the state in the midst of war, and aid for refugees. 

While the vast majority of members of the European Commission travelled to Kiev to deepen cooperation with Ukraine, the European Parliament adopted a declaration in Brussels calling for work to begin on Ukraine's future membership. 

MEPs reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine's EU membership, but make clear that accession is "a merit-based process, conditional on the fulfilment of the criteria set out and requiring the adoption and implementation of appropriate reforms".