Ukraine made ‘great strides’ towards EU membership, top European official says
European Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: EPA

Ukraine has made "great strides" on its way to joining the European Unions since being granted candidate status last year, European commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

For in-depth analysis and longer stories, follow us on LinkedIn

In a wide-ranging speech on the State of the Union, delivered before the EU parliament, Ms von der Leyen spoke of the bloc’s future enlargement, increasing the number of its members to more than 30.

"We know this is not an easy road. Accession is merit-based – and the Commission will always defend this principle. It takes hard work and leadership. But there is already a lot of progress," she stressed.

"We have seen the great strides Ukraine has already made since we granted them candidate status. And we have seen the determination of other candidate countries to reform."

"Our support to Ukraine will endure," she said in her annual policy speech.

Ms von der Leyen promised the bloc would extend special protections granted to Ukrainian citizens who fled Russia’s war, and lawmakers gave a standing ovation as she recounted the fate of Victoria Amelina, the Ukrainian writer and activist killed after having sent her son to safety in Prague.

Separately, the EU commission’s chiefs pledged the bloc’s continued support for Ukraine, which is facing Russia’s full-scale aggression, "for as long as it takes".

Among other things, she announced that the Commission will propose to extend our temporary protection to Ukrainians in the EU.

"We have provided 12 billion euros this year alone to help pay wages and pensions to help keep hospitals, schools and other services running. And through our ASAP proposal we are ramping up ammunition production to help match Ukraine's immediate needs.

"But we are also looking further ahead. This is why we have proposed an additional 50 billion euros over four years for investment and reforms."

Ms von der Leyen also recalled the story of the Ukrainian author Victoria Amelina, which was killed in a Russian missile attack in the city of Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, in late June.

Ukraine, as well as the neighbouring Moldova, were granted candidate status by the EU last June.

Kyiv intends to begin the accession negotiations by the end of the year, aiming to fulfil the ensuing obligations in two years.