Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described his country’s decision on EU membership as groundbreaking for the whole of Europe. “A positive response from the European Union to Ukraine’s application for EU membership can be a positive answer to the question of whether there is a future for the European project at all,” said the Ukrainian head of state on Saturday during a visit by European Commission President Ursula von the Leyen in Kyiv.

In repelling the Russian war of aggression that has been going on since the end of February, the Ukrainian people have “already made a huge contribution to defending common freedom,” Zelensky said.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on Saturday to hold talks on Ukraine’s EU membership application. In the capital of the country attacked by Russia, the top German politician wanted to discuss, among other things, open points in the application for admission with President Volodymyr Zelenskyj and Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal.

In addition, it should be about the long-term help of the EU in repairing the damage caused by the war.

“We will take stock of the joint efforts required for reconstruction and of Ukraine’s progress on its European path,” said von der Leyen on her arrival in Kyiv on Saturday morning. “This will feed into our assessment, which we will present shortly.”

The European Commission is expected to publish its assessment next Friday on whether Ukraine should be granted candidate status for EU membership. Linked to such a recommendation would probably be reform commitments in areas such as the rule of law or the fight against corruption.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed the trips to Kyiv by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and two federal ministers. “I welcome all these trips,” said the SPD politician on Saturday during his trip to the Balkans in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

They are not surprising to him and all make sense. That is also the standard for such trips. When asked if and when he would travel to Ukraine himself, the chancellor did not answer.

The German politician left it open whether von der Leyen’s authority would recommend the 27 member states based on the analysis to give Ukraine unrestricted status as a candidate for EU membership. In Kyiv, von der Leyen praised the country’s parliamentary-presidential democracy and the well-functioning administration, while at the same time calling for reforms to fight corruption and modernize the administration.

The decision as to whether Ukraine will be granted candidate status then lies with the EU states and must be taken unanimously. The EU summit on 23./24. June should deal with it.

However, the views of the countries sometimes differ widely, although the decision on candidate status does not anticipate the admission decision and is also not linked to a time frame. For example, Turkey has been an EU accession candidate since 1999.

In March, shortly after the Russian war of aggression began on February 24, Ukraine submitted an application for acceptance into the EU. The EU states instructed the EU Commission to deal with it and to make a recommendation.

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The issue is controversial within the EU. There has been little open rejection recently, but some states are at least skeptical. These include France and the Netherlands.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has not yet taken a clear position, but he has emphasized that he will not accept any special rules for Ukraine’s accelerated EU accession. He also pointed out that this was not fair to the six countries in the Western Balkans, which are also hoping to join the EU. Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania are already EU accession candidates. Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are still waiting for this status. Scholz is traveling to the Balkans this weekend.

Von der Leyen’s trip to Kyiv is her second since the war began on February 24. For security reasons, it was not announced publicly in advance.

In April, von der Leyen visited the Kiev suburb of Butscha, where war crimes had recently become public. At that time, she presented Selensky with the list of questions that her authority uses to assess Ukraine’s EU ambitions.