Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday that his visit to Kyiv on the first day of Spain’s EU presidency showed the bloc’s ‘unequivocal’ commitment to Ukraine’s bid to join the 27-nation bloc.
‘Speaking of the European Union’s perspective on Ukraine’s EU accession, my being here on the first day of the six-month presidency … demonstrates a clear and unequivocal political commitment on the part of the community institutions in this respect,’ he said in a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukraine applied for EU membership just five days after Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022, and received candidacy status several months later on 23 June in a strong signal of support from Brussels.
Sánchez kicked off Spain’s six-month presidency of the EU with his lightning visit to Kyiv on Saturday to underline the bloc’s support of Ukraine in the face of the invasion by Russia. The Spanish prime minister arrived in the Ukrainian capital by train from Poland.
Sánchez said the European Commission had recently issued an interim update on the status of Ukraine’s candidacy which showed ‘significant progress’ in implementing the recommendations ahead of membership talks.
‘I would like to congratulate Ukraine for the positive trend and encourage it to continue its path of reforms,’ he said, indicating that a written report would be released in the autumn which would outline ‘the basis for further steps and decisions’.
In an earlier address to Ukraine’s parliament, the Spanish leader thanked MPs for their legislative work, recalling that Ukraine’s desire to join the 27-nation bloc was one of the reasons for Russia’s invasion.
‘We do not forget that the European aspirations of the Ukrainian people was one of the excuses that triggered the Russian reaction, and in turn, the invasion. It was only fair to honour this aspiration by granting you the status of candidate to the European Union,’ he said.
‘However, I know that this is not an easy process, especially with an on-going war.’
This was Sánchez’s third time in Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022. On Sunday he was set to meet with the European Council President Charles Michel in Madrid, a day before the arrival of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the college of EU commissioners.
Besides Ukraine, Spain hopes to make progress on several major EU issues during its presidency, which ends on 31 December.
Sánchez believes that the EU will finalise a controversial pact on migration despite lingering differences within the 27-nation group with Poland and Hungary still evident on Friday.
"Ucrania es Europa"— La Moncloa (@desdelamoncloa) July 1, 2023
Es el mensaje del presidente @sanchezcastejon al presidente @ZelenskyyUa y a todo el pueblo ucraniano.
Sánchez ha iniciado en Kyiv la Presidencia española del Consejo de la UE, resaltando el firme apoyo de la UE a Ucrania. pic.twitter.com/xLssDDCS6k