Last month, the Commission recommended starting negotiations with Ukraine, as well as Moldova. However, several member states have since reiterated their opposition to fast-tracking Ukraine’s candidacy at the expense of other hopefuls that have been in the EU waiting room for years.
In an interview to France’s Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday, von der Leyen said her own “firm conviction and that of many European leaders is that Ukraine’s accession goes in the direction of history.”
However, she added that the “European Council will discuss [on Thursday and Friday] the opening of accession negotiations, not accession itself.” The latter, if it does come to pass, is likely to “take time no matter what.”
The Commission president hailed Kiev for having “undertaken profound reforms” in recent months, adding that the EU had “everything to gain from” Ukraine’s possible accession.
She also dismissed recent reports in the Western media, according to which the mood among officials in Kiev has been increasingly gloomy of late. She went on to claim that the majority of Europeans back the continuation of the bloc’s support for Ukraine.
Back in November, von der Leyen stated Kiev had carried out “well over 90% of the necessary steps” for membership set out by the bloc last year. However, she stopped short of offering a concrete timeline for the bloc’s potential enlargement.
Earlier this year, European Council President Charles Michel argued that the EU should prepare to expand by 2030 – a suggestion that von der Leyen and several leaders of member states have spoken against.