Additional support, but not so fast integration: on the eve of the EU-Ukraine summit

More than a dozen top EU officials are set to arrive in Kyiv on Thursday (2 February) with promises of more military, financial, and political aid, a symbolic trip meant to highlight support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches.

Image: President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Kyiv, September 15, 2022 / @ Valentyn Ogirenko (Reuters)

EU-Ukraine summit, 3 February 2023

Despite Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine and increasing reports that the Kremlin is preparing for a new large-scale offensive, the EU-Ukraine summit will take place this Friday in Kyiv.

“Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia‘s invasion. This time, with my team of Commissioners. We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever. And to deepen further our support and cooperation,” Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission wrote on her Twitter, when she arrived in Kyiv early morning, of 2 February.

Euroactive reports that the visit will be the biggest EU delegation Kyiv has welcomed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. Also, it is the first visit ever to be held in an active war zone.

“It is a very strong signal that we are in Kyiv during the war. It’s a signal to the Ukrainian people. It’s a signal to Russia. It’s a signal to the world,”

– a senior EU official told reporters

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen will meet with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President, for the 24th summit between the European Union and Ukraine.

This is the first EU-Ukraine summit since the start of the Russian aggression, and also since the European Council granted Ukraine the status of candidate country.

The leaders will discuss:

  • Ukraine’s European path and the accession process
  • the EU’s response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine
  • Ukraine’s initiatives for just peace and accountability
  • cooperation on issues of reconstruction and relief and in the areas of energy and connectivity
  • global food security

According to Euroactive, progress is expected in areas such as boosting customs-free access for Ukrainian exports to the EU market.

New additions are also items on the access to the bloc’s roaming-free zone and inclusion in the single euro payments area.

Both sides are also set to sign a memorandum of understanding on a strategic partnership on renewables.

Ukraine applied for EU membership in February 2022 and was granted EU candidate status in June 2022.

The EU will decide on further steps once Ukraine fulfills the conditions outlined in the European Commission’s opinion on its EU membership application.

More aid but not so fast membership

Among those who arrived in Kyiv was also the chief EU diplomat Josep Borrel, who announced new support for Ukraine.

“Arrived in Kyiv to convey EU’s strongest message of support to all Ukrainians defending their country. 

EU assistance has reached €50 billion since the start of Russia’s war. Europe stood united with Ukraine from day one. And will still stand with you to win and rebuild,” wrote Borrel on his Twitter.

The EU will also redouble its efforts to train Ukrainian troops through a newly established military training mission, which now aims to train and equip at least 30,000 soldiers this year. The Union will also allocate 25 million euros for demining the territories liberated by Ukraine from Russian occupation.

According to Euroactive, the EU is expected to praise Ukraine’s progress in membership-related reforms and send a strong message to Moscow, according to the draft communiqué of the summit.

But member states remain divided over the speed of Ukraine’s accession.

Official Kyiv expresses hope for Ukraine’s accession to the EU to be accelerated, perhaps even within two years.

At the same time, instead of agreeing on a date, EU officials listed several conditions for accession, from political and economic stability to the adoption of EU laws ranging from climate to social and health standards.

The ongoing war is also a significant obstacle to Ukraine’s accession. That is why European leaders are cautious in their assessments and do not make specific promises.

We will know whether there will be more concrete statements after the summit.

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