Ukrainian, EU leaders meet on cooperation, Kiev’s membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speak after a joint press conference after talks in Kiev on Feb 2, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

KIEV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday discussed cooperation and Kiev's European integration, Zelensky's press service reported.

Speaking after the talks, which took place in Kiev ahead of the Ukraine-European Union summit, Zelensky said the visit of von der Leyen and other EU officials to Ukraine marks an important milestone in Ukraine's European integration.

Zelensky said he received a report from von der Leyen on the second part of the questionnaire that Ukraine had filled out to become a candidate for EU membership.

"This is good news. This report will become the basis for the work of our government," he said.

At their meeting, Zelensky and von der Leyen talked about trade liberalization between Ukraine and the EU, financial cooperation, and energy security.

The two sides also touched upon the issues of Ukraine's post-conflict reconstruction and new sanctions against Russia.

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Ukraine on Thursday signed an agreement to join the EU's Single Market Program with a budget of 4.2 billion euros (about $4.59 billion, the government press service reported

The Ukraine-EU summit, scheduled to take place in Kiev on Friday, will discuss economic, financial, social, energy and humanitarian issues.

Preparations for the next phase of Ukraine's integration with the EU will also be a topic of the summit, according to the presidential press service.

In June 2022, EU leaders accepted Ukraine as a candidate for membership in the bloc.

Single market

Ukraine on Thursday signed an agreement to join the EU's Single Market Program with a budget of 4.2 billion euros (about $4.59 billion, the government press service reported.

The deal was inked in Kiev during the joint consultations between the Ukrainian government and the College of the European Commissioners.

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Commenting on the agreement, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said it would help to develop the competitiveness of Ukrainian businesses by ensuring green and digital transitions.

Ukraine and the EU also launched a strategic partnership in the field of renewable gases at their consultations.

The Single Market Program is the EU funding program aimed at boosting the competitiveness of businesses, helping the EU internal market reach its full potential, and ensuring Europe's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential press-service on Feb 2, 2023 shows the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen taking part in a meeting of the European Commission and Ukraine's government. (PHOTO / AFP)

Duty-free trade

Shmyhal said that his country is seeking to extend the duty-free trade with the EU until the end of 2024, added the government press service.

While speaking at a meeting with visiting Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis, Shmyhal noted that further deepening of trade relations with the EU is vital for Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia.

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Shmyhal thanked the EU for the approval of the macro-financial assistance for Ukraine worth 18 billion euros (about $19.76 billion) and called on Brussels to contribute to Ukraine's reconstruction efforts.

This year, Ukraine would need some 17 billion dollars for the post-conflict recovery, he said.

For his part, Dombrovskis said that the EU would continue to fully support Ukraine.

The Ukraine-EU preferential trade regime, abolishing tariffs and quotas on Ukrainian industrial goods and foods, took effect in June 2022.