The European Union’s top officials arrived in Ukraine on Thursday before a summit with President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss issues including Ukraine’s reconstruction and its candidacy for membership in the bloc.
“We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said on Twitter, adding that it was “good to be back in Kyiv” for her fourth visit to the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its full-scale invasion almost a year ago.
Ms. von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, are expected to meet with Mr. Zelensky on Friday. Together, the Commission and Council set the bloc’s political direction and decide key policies for the 27-member association.
Days after Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Mr. Zelensky filed a request for Ukraine to join the European Union, a process that could take a decade. Friday’s meeting will be the first summit between the governments since Ukraine, along with neighboring Moldova, was granted E.U. candidate status in June.
Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine did not have a serious chance at becoming a candidate in the near future because of its less developed economy, a history of corruption and institutional weaknesses. Since late January, several Ukrainian officials have resigned or been removed from office. On Wednesday, the authorities carried out dozens of searches related to corruption accusations.
The timing of the searches appeared to be intended to assure European officials that Kyiv is rooting out corruption, signaling that the country is taking seriously its responsibility toward spending E.U. money for its reconstruction. Both in Europe and in the United States, politicians and the public are concerned about the way billions of dollars in financial aid will be spent in Ukraine and are seeking accountability on how the funds are funneled toward the country’s rebuilding.
Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Michel traveled to Kyiv with several members of the European Commission who are responsible for policy areas such as technology, trade and agriculture. The commissioners will meet with Ukrainian government officials on Thursday before the higher-level gathering of Mr. Zelensky, Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Michel on Friday.