Von der Leyen meets Zelensky to discuss Ukraine EU membership bid

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European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen visited Ukraine on Saturday for discussions with President Volodymyr Zelensky about his country's bid to join the continental bloc.

Kyiv has been pushing for rapid admission to the European Union.

Officials have, however, cautioned that the road to membership is a long one, which can take decades.

Ukraine sees the prospect of joining the EU as a way of reducing its geopolitical vulnerability, which has been exposed by Russia's invasion.

"With President Zelensky I will take stock of the joint work needed for reconstruction and of the progress made by Ukraine on its European path," von der Leyen tweeted on arrival in Kyiv.

She told journalists that the discussions "will feed into our assessment" of Ukraine's readiness to be considered a candidate country to begin lengthy negotiations, including needed reforms.

That assessment by her commission will be presented soon, she said, without given any timeframe.

EU commissioners and officials are expected to examine Ukraine's bid next week, ahead of a summit later this month.

Von der Leyen's trip to Kyiv is her second since the Russian invasion in February.

On her last visit von der Leyen said "Ukraine belongs to the European family".

However some EU countries have expressed wariness about giving Ukraine a speeded-up candidacy process.

They point to Ukraine's problems with corruption, and the fact that countries such as North Macedonia and Albania are already further along the candidacy path.

The European Union is helping channel weapons to Ukraine through a two-billion-euro fund and has given Kyiv more than 700 million euros in aid since the invasion.

Europe has also imposed six rounds of sanctions on Russia, notably hitting coal and oil exports.

EU countries are hosting nearly five million Ukrainian refugees.

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