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Zelensky calls for ‘real’ talks on Ukraine joining the EU

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday told EU leaders that starting “real negotiations on Ukraine’s accession” to the European Union is key for “motivating our people in the fight against Russia.”

“Ukrainians need to see the EU getting closer,” Zelensky said, according to a transcript supplied to the press. Approving the plan for membership talks “could greatly support our people and send the right signal to the whole of Europe,” he told the EU summit in Brussels, via videolink.

Prime ministers and presidents of the EU’s 27 countries met behind closed doors in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss ways of supporting Ukraine using the proceeds of frozen Russian assets. The assets were frozen in the wake of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

EU leaders agreed to open accession negotiations with Ukraine in December. But talks can’t begin until EU affairs ministers approve a “negotiating framework,” proposed by the European Commission on March 12, setting out how the talks should proceed.

Zelensky also welcomed the EU’s efforts to ramp-up arms production and thanked the bloc for its support. He asked for more air defence systems, artillery, and further trade liberalization for Ukraine.

“Our grain is important for the southern part of the EU, namely for the agricultural sector in Spain and Italy. Our sugar is needed for the Romanian market,” he said.

European farmers, particularly in Poland, have protested against the easing of trade restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural imports, which they argue undercuts their own produce.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks via a videoconference during the EU summit in Brussels. Dario Pignatelli/European Council/dpa

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks via a videoconference during the EU summit in Brussels. Dario Pignatelli/European Council/dpa

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