EU Leaders Gather In Ukraine For Summit In Shadow Of Russia

By: - October 12, 2021

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council Charles Michel are arriving in Ukraine for a summit with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss a range of issues including European security, EU prospects, and gas-pipeline concerns in the shadow of neighbor Russia.

The meeting is the 23rd Ukraine-EU summit and comes with Ukraine’s eastern war with Kremlin-backed forces in its eighth year and Zelenskiy under increasing pressure over internal reforms and the country’s long-running fight with corruption.

EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of the summit that EU leaders would reiterate Brussels’ “full support” for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as to “underline our continued and effective support to the ongoing reform progress.”

Von der Leyen and Michel are not expected to commit to pledges regarding Kyiv’s goal of EU membership, an effort that Moscow has sought to frustrate.

Russia’s actions since annexing Crimea in 2014 while lending support to separatists in other parts of eastern Ukraine and clamping down on dissent in occupied Crimea have drawn Western sanctions that the EU extended to eight new enforcers of Russian law in Crimea on October 11.

Borrell said Brussels and its partners “will continue to speak up and hold the Russian government accountable when violating international law and failing to adhere to its international obligations and commitments.”

Zelenskiy spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine ahead of the summit.

The French and German leaders also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin in hopes of reviving peace talks under the so-called Normandy format.

Russia’s imminent launch of the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline that skirts Ukraine to supply fuel to Germany is an area of major concern in Kyiv, which will be denied billions in transit fees.

Borrells said that “Ukraine is and remains a strategic transit country for gas” and “the EU continues to attach great importance to Ukraine’s energy security.”

EU officials at the summit will reportedly pledge a multibillion-euro investment package to draw investors to Ukraine and sign an aviation agreement that should boost air traffic and low-cost travel between Ukraine and the bloc.

Recent reports have suggested EU officials were considering withdrawing visa-free travel for Ukraine and nearby Georgia and Moldova, along with several Balkan states, over abuses by their citizens.

Borrell said on October 11 that the bloc had set up a fact-finding mission to assess Ukrainian officials’ request for a military advisory and training mission to the country.