In late Saturday statements Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asserted that his country's membership in the EU would "strengthen" the entirety of Europe. He said Ukraine is in the "final phase of the big diplomatic marathon," noting that the world should have an answer on Ukraine's candidacy bid in a mere week-and-a-half, in translated comments.
Why is she wearing body armor? https://t.co/UmjXS7eiIC— Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) June 11, 2022
The Ukrainian leader said after the meeting with von der Leyen that the European Commission will soon prepare a conclusion regarding Ukraine's application. He told the Ukrainian public that "all the necessary answers in a very short time, and it was done well."
Von der Leyen also confirmed that a decision to recommend Ukraine's candidacy will soon be made known. However, she emphasized this would be a mere preliminary step:
"EU leaders are due to meet on the 17th of June ahead of an upcoming summit on the 23rd and 24th of June. Now the EU Commission is expected to recommend Ukraine's candidacy to join the EU - but that is just a preliminary step; there are many more along the road. Notably, all 27 member states would need to agree on Ukraine becoming a candidate and we know that already there have been divisions among EU member states."
It remains the consensus among most Western officials is that the full membership process is likely to take years, not months or weeks. A weekend Washington Post report cited EU officials who said it's actually more like "decades".
Zelensky sought to connect the dire battlefield situation in the Donbas, where it appears Ukrainian forces are in retreat, to the urgency of EU membership.
"No one can say now how long this burning of souls by Russia will last. But we must do everything to make the occupiers regret that they have done all this, and to hold them accountable for every murder and every strike at our beautiful state," Zelensky said.
In particular, the final holdout city of Sievierodonetsk could imminently fall to the Russians:
"Fierce street battles continue in Sievierodonetsk," he said. "I am proud of all our defenders who managed to stop the advance of these hostile people, these occupiers for many weeks already and keep our defense strong."
A number of commentators have meanwhile noted that if EU membership is achieved, entry to NATO would not be far behind - though in the latter case Turkey is currently source of inter-NATO strife over Finland and Sweden's proposed memberships and applications.