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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article15 September 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations4 min read

Press statement by President von der Leyen with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy

VDL visit ukraine

Many thanks Mr President, dear Volodymyr,

Indeed, it is now the third time that I am here in Kyiv, since the beginning of this atrocious war. And I must say that it is impressive to see how much has changed to the better here in Kyiv. Life has come back to Kyiv. I saw people in the streets starting their businesses again. You told me how much more lively the city is now, and moving forward. I also want to congratulate you for your military successes. I know that there needs to be consolidation, but still it is impressive to see the bravery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. And their success has lifted the spirits, I would say, not only for the Ukrainian people, but for all your friends, too. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the order I got today. It humbled me and it honours me. And I want to thank you for that, because I take it in the name of the millions and millions of Europeans that support Ukraine. And I think it is a beautiful symbol of the bond between Ukraine and the European Union.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure to host the First Lady in Strasbourg, in the European Parliament. And it was touching and heart-warming to see the standing ovation with which she was received. And it was palpable, the warmth and the friendship in the room, to honour the First Lady of Ukraine.

We have discussed a lot of topics. First of all, I must say that the accession process is well on track. It is impressive to see the speed, the determination, the preciseness with which you are progressing. And as you know, we support you wherever we can. I do not have to tell you to speed up the process because you are speeding it up. That is very good. In parallel, we have agreed that we need to work as much as possible to make sure that Ukraine has more business, more income, and thus that a seamless access to the European Single Market is possible for Ukraine.

We have done a lot already. Indeed, you mentioned the electricity grid. You might recall that, at the beginning of this atrocious war, there was still the plan that in 2024 the Ukrainian electricity grid should be connected to the European one. Well, we made it in two weeks. This was amazing. And since then, even better, Ukraine is delivering electricity to the European Union. We want to improve and increase this, and thus create steadfast flows of income, for example, for Ukraine.

But there are also other topics where we can have this seamless access to the Single Market. At the moment being, we have 98% of tariffs that are no longer on goods. That is good. But there are many non-tariff barriers that we can take away and on which our experts will work. We have discussed that the free roaming should be permanent, and many different items that we can work on so that we have a deep integration of the Ukrainian economy in the Single Market.

The second big topic, of course, was preparedness for the winter, the short term. And here, we have earmarked already EUR 150 million to make sure that the internally displaced people here in Ukraine have shelter. And I am happy to announce that there will be another EUR 100 million to support schools so that the damages done by the war in those schools can be repaired in the short term. I know that 70 schools immediately need the reconstruction, the repair work to be done. It is 70,000 children that can go to school. So this is an enormous motivation for us also to be as fast as possible, that we make sure that we are prepared for the winter. The future begins with the children and education. And therefore, it is so important.

We have been discussing, of course, the budget support, the so-called macro-financial assistance. I am very glad that today the European Parliament has voted positively on the EUR 5 billion loans. And we are working on the rest of the macro-financial assistance. The EUR 5 billion can be disbursed in the first tranche, mid-October. So there is a clear path that we have discussed together.

The work on sanctions is also well on track. It is always important to exchange with our friends in Ukraine on the details, because we have to be very careful that there are no loopholes, that there are no circumventions. And therefore, there was an intense discussion, mainly also by our experts, on what we can do together.

Finally, a topic that is of utmost importance also is the mid- and long-term reconstruction. Here, we have discussed how we can progress the structure of the platform for the reconstruction. And we are both looking forward to having on 25 October in Berlin a Reconstruction Congress where experts from all over the world will discuss what the best approach is, for the reconstruction, in an accountable, effective and speedy manner, for Ukraine.

All in all, intensive discussions on many, many topics. But what I want to say at the very end, dear Volodymyr is that we will never be able to match the sacrifice that the Ukrainians are making when they lose their homes or they cry for their beloved ones that have gone. We will never be able to compensate what you do with your fight for democracy, for humanity, for the respect of the international rule of law. But what we can tell you is that you have your European friends by your side as long as it takes, and that we are friends forever.

Thank you for having me here today.


Publication date
15 September 2022 (Last updated on: 15 September 2022)
Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations