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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article2 February 2023Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Opening remarks by President von der Leyen on the occasion of the meeting between the College and the government of Ukraine

President speech

"Check against delivery"

President Zelenskyy,

Prime Minister Shmyhal,

Dear Ministers,

Dear colleagues,

I know I speak on behalf of the whole College of European Commissioners when I say that this is a visit like no other. Today, we have come to the heart of Europe. Because Ukraine has become the centre of our continent. The place where our values are upheld, where our freedom is defended, where the future of Europe is written. Almost the entire College of the European Commission has come to Kyiv today because we want to write that future together with you. Allow me to begin by honouring the memory of those who should have been with us today if Russia's war had not tragically taken them from us: Minister of Interior Denys Monastyrskyy, First Deputy Minister Yevhen Yenin, State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovych, among others who lost their lives. They worked and fought for a free Ukraine, a European Ukraine. And the best way to honour their memory is through action, by turning their dream into reality.

Today's visit is more than a meeting between officials. It is one family coming together. Together, we want to open a window to a brighter future, while the present is incredibly hard and demanding. Russian missiles keep being shot at your cities. Ukrainians keep fighting bravely for their freedom and their homeland. So the great question we must tackle is how we get from today's dark reality to Ukraine's bright future inside the European Union; how we can support Ukraine's struggle for freedom and for Europe.

The most immediate answer is that we, in the EU, must continue to step up the pressure on Russia. Our measures are hitting at the core of Russia's economy. Russia's gas revenues from Europe have fallen by two thirds compared to pre-war levels. Our price cap on crude oil costs Russia around EUR 160 million every day. And our sanctions are also cutting off access to the high-tech items Putin needs to sustain his military machine. Today, we will update you on the implementation of our sanctions, and how we are working to make Russia pay for the enormous damage it is causing every day.

And our support for Ukraine goes well beyond sanctions. My colleagues and I are here not only to discuss further support but also the next steps to bring Ukraine even closer to the European Union. The fact that we are meeting in Kyiv today is a strong sign of the huge progress already made and of our mutual commitment. Only one year ago, no one could have imagined how fast Ukraine could move towards the European Union. But now you are a candidate to joining our Union. Millions of Ukrainians are working in the EU. Our energy grids are synchronised. And thanks to the solidarity lanes, Ukrainian farms and industries are getting vital revenues by trading with Europe and through Europe. Today, for instance, we come with a set of proposals to ensure Ukraine seamless access to the European Single Market. We want to help Ukraine mobilise its full economic potential in the fight against Russia, and later for reconstruction. Investors around the world are already looking at this country. And they are also looking at what still needs to happen. Our meeting today should also be a message to investors. Ukraine will advance on its European path. You have an ambitious reform agenda. Not only because Europe asks for it, but because Ukrainians know that the path towards Europe also leads to a stronger Ukraine.

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will never forget the day when Ukraine became a candidate country; the day when the European flag was brought into the Ukrainian parliament, in a solemn ceremony, amid thunderous applause. It was a new beginning for Ukraine, but it was also a new beginning for the European Union. Your courage has inspired us. You have given us a new sense of purpose. Europe is with you for as long as it takes – until the day when the Ukrainian flag will be raised where it belongs: in Brussels at the heart of the European Union.

Slava Ukraini.