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EU’s Michel, in Kyiv, warns of difficult meeting ahead on accession talks

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PRESIDENT.GOV.UA

KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Council chief Charles Michel warned on Tuesday that a European Union (EU) meeting next month to decide whether to begin formal accession talks for Kyiv would be difficult.

Mr. Michel, who visited Kyiv on a surprise trip, told a joint news conference with Zelensky and Moldovan President Maia Sandu who hopes accession talks for Moldova will also be approved, that he would work to overcome those challenges.

“For us, the decision in December is a motivational one, the decision that mobilizes. I think this is the decision which will help Ukraine to believe that there is justice,” Mr. Zelensky told reporters.

Mr. Zelensky warned at the news conference that a lack of unity within the EU on the decision to launch formal talks would also raise questions on other issues including vital financial aid for Ukraine as well as sanctions on Russia.

“All these are big challenges for everyone and already not only for Ukraine, but a challenge for preserving the unity of the European Union,” he said.

The decision is due to be considered at a Dec. 14-15 summit.

“It will be a difficult meeting, but I do not intend to give up,” Mr. Michel said, adding that the world needed a strong European Union to ensure stability and prosperity.

Mr. Michel’s visit came as Ukraine marks 10 years since the start of mass protests that toppled a Moscow-backed president and set Kyiv on a resolute pro-Western course.

Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine is in its 21st month and Ukraine’s efforts to retake nearly a fifth of its territory which is occupied by Moscow has not delivered the breakthrough that many Ukrainians had wanted.

Concerns have also been growing over the sustainability of supplies of billions of dollars of vital Western economic and military assistance.

Mr. Michel praised Ukraine’s progress as “remarkable.” He told reporters he would do everything to persuade all 27 bloc members to support the launch of talks with Ukraine and Moldova.

‘ACT AS ONE VOICE’At the news conference, Ms. Sandu, the pro-European president of former Soviet Moldova, called on the EU members to unanimously support the opening of EU accession talks.

“We must act with one voice, showing that our collective will is unbreakable,” she told reporters.

“Furthermore, the urgency of these times, marked by war and insecurity, demands that we accelerate our processes.”

Ukraine and Moldova have been conducting a set of reforms to win over members of the EU to further their bids amid signs of an increasingly gloomy outlook from Brussels ahead of the EU summit next month.

Both Mr. Zelensky and Ms. Sandu vowed to continue work on reforms.

Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday preliminarily approved several key draft laws of anti-corruption legislation that had been recommended by Brussels to beef up Kyiv’s fight against graft. The measures include expanding the staff of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and strengthening safeguards for the anti-corruption prosecutor.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, also on a trip to Kyiv, announced a new military aid package of 1.3 billion euros ($1.42 billion) that will include four additional IRIS-T air defense systems.

Ukraine, which gained independence from Soviet Moscow in 1991, marks a Day of Dignity and Freedom on Tuesday to commemorate its two pro-Western, pro-democratic revolutions in 2004 and 2014.

The 2014 revolution, which the Kremlin casts as a foreign-sponsored coup, prompted Russian troops to seize and annex the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and back a militant insurrection in the east. — Reuters

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