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EU pledges to Ukraine, but no quick green light

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-06 07:58

This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential press-service on February 3, 2023, shows European Council President Charles Michel (L), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) walking during an EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv. [Photo/Agencies]

The European Union has pledged more support for Ukraine but dismissed any fast-track membership into the bloc, and Russia blasted the meeting at which the matter was discussed as "hypocritical".

A joint statement after the EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv on Friday praised Ukraine's commitment and progress toward joining the EU but said the bloc will decide on further steps once all conditions specified in the European Commission's opinion are fully met.

"There are no rigid timelines, but there are goals that you have to reach," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said of Ukraine's accession to the bloc.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said formal accession negotiations to join the EU should start soon.

"The goal is to start negotiations this year, and this is not just a purpose but a major overwhelming goal."

Kyiv said recently that it hoped to become a full EU member by 2026.The country was granted full-candidate status in the bloc in June.

"We encourage Ukraine to continue strengthening the rule of law, because it benefits every Ukrainian citizen," European Council President Charles Michel said on Friday.

The European Commission is set to report on Ukraine's fulfillment of the conditions in the coming spring.

The 27 EU member states are divided on the issue. While Poland and the Baltic states want to speed up the process, France's President Emmanuel Macron said in May that it could take several decades. Some other European leaders have also opposed any shortcut to EU membership.

Croatia was the last country to join the EU, in 2013, 10 years after it applied. Serbia and Montenegro, which are expected to be next in line to join, have also waited for more than 10 years.

At the summit on Friday, 15 European Commissioners met their Ukrainian counterparts as a show of solidarity.

The EU announced it would double the number of Ukrainian soldiers to be trained by the EU to 30,000 this year.

The EU has earmarked about 60 billion euros ($65 billion) in aid to Ukraine, including 12 billion euros in military support and 18 billion euros in loans with a 10-year grace period, to help run the country this year.

Von der Leyen pledged a 10th round of sanctions against Russia on the one-year anniversary of the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Feb 24.

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