On May 9, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Kyiv to celebrate Europe Day with Ukrainians.

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MP Maria Mezentseva (Servant of the People), deputy head of the parliamentary committee on Ukraine's integration with the EU, told LIGA.net that the visit was part of the process that precedes the country's European integration.

LIGA.net overviews what you need to know about this trip and when Ukraine will be able to move to the next stage of accession to the European Union.

WHAT HAPPENED. Von der Leyen began her visit to Ukraine — her fourth since the start of the full-scale invasion — at St. Michael's Square. There, she visited an exhibition of photographs of the consequences of the Russian occupation and an exhibition of destroyed Russian military equipment.

Later, she met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the St. Sophia of Kyiv National Reserve.

The parties discussed Ukraine's defense. In particular, according to Zelenskyy, the EU is ready to provide Ukraine with one million artillery rounds. They also discussed how to quickly buy and provide the ammunition that Ukrainian defenders need at the front.

The President of the European Commission also noted the difficult situation around the export of Ukrainian agricultural products. This needs to be resolved: the immediate priority now is to establish unimpeded transit of grain from Ukraine to the EU at the lowest possible price.

"We will create a joint coordination platform," said von der Leyen.

Another topic of discussion was the 11th package of European sanctions against Russia. It will focus on preventing the circumvention of restrictions. Zelenskyy expects that the sanctions will affect the nuclear industry of the terrorist state: then the strength of the sanctions package will be proportional to the level of threat.

Володимир Зеленський та Урсула фон дер Ляєн (фото: ОП)
Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv (photo: OP)

Von der Leyen expressed her respect for Ukraine, which in the midst of the war is working hard on the "seven steps to the EU". According to her, significant progress has been made in this work, but it needs to be continued.

WHY IT MATTERS. Mezentseva told LIGA.net that the European Commission President's visit on the occasion of the Europe Day had several goals.

The practical one is to establish working relations.

"In June, Ukraine will receive feedback on the seven points of commitments that we received from the European Union along with the candidate status in 2022. This visit can be considered a preparation for the assessment of Ukraine's fulfillment of these points," says Maria Mezentseva.

It is symbolic to show that Ukraine is part of the European space.

Upon arrival in Kyiv, von der Leyen said she was happy to have the opportunity to celebrate Europe Day here. "Where the values we hold dear are defended every day," she said.

European partners are not afraid to come to Kyiv, which is being actively attacked by Iranian Shahed drones and Russian missiles, and this is a powerful signal of additional support, Mezentseva said. Especially on such a historic day.

"The European project was supposed to prevent a new war on the continent. 73 years after its creation, Russia's ‘we can do it again’ materialized in a very large-scale version. And it has had a bad impact on different levels of development of all countries," the Ukrainian lawmaker states.

The visit is also important in the context of the European Parliament elections in 2024. According to Mezentseva, the Ukrainian issue will be used as actively during the European Parliament elections as it is in national elections in different countries. Ukraine is interested in maintaining European support after the elections.

Володимир Зеленський та Урсула фон дер Ляєн (фото: ОП)
Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv (photo: OP)

WHAT'S NEXT. In June, Ukraine is to receive the first interim assessment of its progress toward European integration from the European Commission. Zelenskyy expects this assessment to be positive.

"Our goal now is to receive an oral report in June. The most important thing is a written report of progress for the whole year. This will be a decision-making element presented to the member states in October," von der Leyen explained.

According to the President of the European Commission, the EU will continue to provide financial support to Ukraine. "We have €18 billion of assistance planned for the whole of 2023," she noted. "Of this, we have already distributed €6 billion. We are working on financial support after 2023."