EU chief says Ukraine on good path but must do more

EU chief says Ukraine on good path but must do more

The European Commission head said Kiev had to address corruption and attract investors to succeed on the European path.

Kiev has advanced on its European path but must do more, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday during a surprise visit to Ukraine.

Ukraine submitted its official application for EU membership on February 28, four days after Russia began its military operations in the country. At the bloc's summit on June 23 -- 24, the EU leaders are expected to issue a formal opinion about whether to grant Kiev candidate status. There is a requirement for the unanimous support of all 27 member nations.

At a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amid the Russian military offensive, von der Leyen said that the EU is working day and night on its assessment of the application and plans to finalize it by the end of next week.

There still needs to be reforms implemented, and you have done a lot in strengthening the rule of law. She said that she wanted to fight corruption or modernize this well-functioning administration to help attract investors.

According to von der Leyen, the war with Russia is the top priority for Ukraine and its supporters right now, von der Leyen said Kiev and the West need to plan out what needs to be done next in terms of reforms.

She said that Ukraine was already on a good track before the horrible and atrocious invasion of Russia, and that Ukraine was on a good path, hailing the enormous efforts and determination of Ukraine in its bid to join the bloc.

Von der Leyen said Ukraine has a solid political system, strong and well-anchored institutions, and functioning administration on all levels. She did not address the crackdown on opposition parties and media initiated by Zelensky even before Moscow began the military operation, but was intensified afterwards.

Zelensky claimed that Ukraine is only the beginning of the process, and that Moscow wants to destroy European unity. He said that the European Union's positive response to Ukraine's application for membership can be a positive response to the question of whether the European project has a future at all, and that candidate status is only the beginning of the movement towards EU membership. The topic of the talks was the reconstruction of Ukraine. There is already a clear roadmap, according to von der Leyen. She said that businesses are eager to help Ukraine rise from ashes and that it is amazing to see that there is enormous will outside Ukraine to support reconstruction, be it the member states, be it other friends and partners of Ukraine and the international financial institutions. There were several EU member countries who made it clear that the process of accession to the bloc will take a long time. Austrian EU Affairs Minister Karoline Edtstadler predicted that Ukraine would not join the bloc in the next five to ten years. In May, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Ukraine could become a European political community for the time being, noting that Kiev's accession to the EU could take years, if not decades. Zelensky lashed out at the idea, saying Ukraine would not settle for a replacement to EU candidate status and full membership.