Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky called for his country’s immediate entry into the European Union on Monday.
“We ask the European Union for Ukraine’s immediate accession via a new special procedure,” Zelensky said on his Telegram channel, according to Politico. “Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I’m sure it’s fair. I’m sure it’s possible.”
Zelensky has previously made calls to join the European bloc since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of his country last week. On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed support for Ukraine’s addition to the EU under a simplified, expedited process. It is not clear how that process would work.
“We have a process with Ukraine that is, for example, integrating the Ukrainian market into the single market,” von der Leyen told Euronews. “We have very close cooperation on the energy grid, for example. So many topics where we work very closely together and indeed over time, they belong to us. They are one of us and we want them in.”
The EU commission chief added that the bloc’s trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin is “completely broken and eroded.” She appeared to express doubt in the outcome of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia that began on Monday.
“Of course, it is important that the Ukrainian side agrees to the peace talks and that conditions are fine for the Ukrainian side. In general, it is always better to have peace talks than to have a fight. But the trust in President Putin is completely broken and eroded,” she said.
After von der Leyen’s statement, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal tweeted that the time had come to “put this down on paper.”
“Ukrainians have long proved that we are all an integral part of the European community. It’s time to put this down on paper. Ukraine applies for admission to EU under a special procedure. We are grateful to our partners for their support and quick decisions,” Shmyhal said.
Українці давно довели, що всі ми – невід'ємна частина європейської спільноти. Прийшов час закріпити це на папері. #Україна подає заявку на вступ до #ЄС за спеціальною процедурою. Вдячні партнерам за підтримку і швидкі рішення.
— Denys Shmyhal (@Denys_Shmyhal) February 28, 2022
Zelensky formally signed an application to join the bloc on Monday. The application could take years to process and approve, however, as Russia continues its assault and attempt to topple Ukraine’s government.
This is a historic moment! pic.twitter.com/rmzdgIwArc
— Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (@ua_parliament) February 28, 2022
Despite support from the commission chief, Ukraine’s application is expected to face pushback from a number of EU countries. Several EU officials later walked back von der Leyen’s comments, according to The Times of Israel.
“There are different opinions and sensitivities within the EU on enlargement,” said Charles Michel, who serves as president of the EU’s other lawmaking body, the European Council.
Von der Leyen spokesman Eric Mamer also gave a more restrained response after he was asked about the commission president’s comments.
Ukraine “is a European country and we want them in, meaning Europe in general,” he said. “She then also specified that there is a process [for joining the EU]. And I think that this is the important point.”