KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday his war-scarred country wanted to join the European single market ahead of a decision on whether to grant Kyiv full EU membership.
Zelensky was speaking at a press conference with EU president Ursula von der Leyen who came to Kyiv to work out a roadmap for Ukraine’s long-standing aspiration to join the union.
“For us, a pressing issue is the question of Ukraine joining the EU single market while we’re on the way to EU membership status. I’m sure it will happen and it will be one of our country’s most important victories,” Zelensky said. Ukraine applied for EU membership just five days after Russia’s February 24 invasion.
The EU formally accepted Ukraine’s candidacy to join the 27-nation bloc on June 23, in a strong signal of support.
Zelensky thanked von der Leyen, who was visiting Kyiv for the third time since the beginning of the invasion, for her “personal presence in the life of our country and your personal support of Ukraine.” The two spoke about Ukrainian energy facilitiesrepeatedly hit by Russian forces and a European energy crisis as Moscow halts of disrupts vital supplies. “We should help each other” on energy, the Ukrainian president said. “We’re thankful for having joined European power grids,” Zelensky said.
“It’s in everyone’s interest: European countries can get cheap electricity from Ukraine” and “we’ll be able to get money for salaries and social payments in such difficult times”.U chief Ursula von der Leyen’s trip coincided with a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his increasingly close ally Chinese leader Xi Jinping in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan, where the men hailed their strategic ties in defiance of the West.
It also comes as Ukrainian forces consolidate gains against Russian forces in the east of the country in a dramatic offensive aided by Western weapons. Von der Leyen said Thursday’s visit was her third to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, but this one was different.
“We will never be able to match the sacrifice that the Ukrainians are making,” she told reporters during a joint press conference with Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky.