European leaders meet in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's path towards joining the EU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen shake hands after a joint press conference after talks in Kyiv on February 2, 2023.

Sergei Supinsky / Sergei Supinsky

KYIV, Ukraine — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel travelled to Kyiv for an annual EU-Ukraine summit.

Ukrainian and European Union leaders have been meeting regularly for these summits since the 1990s, but this is the first time a summit is taking place with Ukraine as an official candidate to join the EU.

The bilateral meetings usually alternate between Ukrainian and European cities, but the meeting taking place in Kyiv this year, amid the sound of air raid sirens, is a reminder the country is still very much at war.

“Our presence in Kyiv today gives a very clear signal. The whole of the European Union is in this with Ukraine for the long haul, and we will stand up for Ukraine as we stand up for fundamental rights and respect for international law,” said Von der Leyen.

Ukraine is expected to show the Europeans how much progress they’ve made on a seven-point checklist of anti-corruption and judicial reforms before they’re able to join the EU. The last two weeks in Ukrainian politics have been marked by several high-profile investigations and dismissals.

Meanwhile, the EU is expected to offer hundreds of millions of euros worth of military and economic assistance to Ukraine, increased free trade, as well as propose a tenth sanctions package for Russia.

“It’s in our common European interest to prevent Russia from side-stepping sanctions and prevent further aggression,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

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