Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union’s top official, reassured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a wide-ranging meeting Thursday in Kyiv that his country is still progressing toward membership in the bloc.
In a discussion that also touched on Europe’s rising energy prices and military aid, Ms. von der Leyen told Mr. Zelensky that the entry process will most likely be long and difficult. But, she added, the possibility exists that Ukraine could join the E.U.’s internal market before acquiring full member status, a potential boon for Ukraine’s battered economy.
“I note determination, huge progress on this path,” she said. “We will support you with all our capabilities.”
It was Ms. von der Leyen’s third trip to Ukraine’s capital since Russia invaded in February. She has become an unexpected wartime leader, recasting the typically bureaucratic role of European Commission president, and has vowed that the bloc will continue to support Ukraine. In her State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, she reiterated her stance against Moscow and laid out a plan to help Europe withstand the major energy crisis unleashed by Russia.
In a news conference after the meeting, Mr. Zelensky repeated his plea for more high-powered weapons, especially air defense systems. Ms. von der Leyen echoed the call: “This is the responsibility of E.U. member states on a bilateral level,” she said.