EU chief fast-tracks Ukraine membership in ‘important step forward’ in eradicating Russian rule

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who recently offered Ukraine a fast-track toward European Union membership, asserted Sunday that “an important step forward” was taken to ensure Ukrainian soldiers risking their lives that their children will one day live in a Ukraine free of Russian rule.

Her remarks on CNN “State of the Union” Sunday came after von der Leyen recently visited Kyiv. The EU chief presented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with a questionnaire, the responses to which will form the basis of an opinion to be passed on to the European Council this summer.

Speaking at a joint press conference, von der Leyen said the questionnaire “is where your path towards the European Union begins,” adding that this step “will not be, as usual, a matter of years, but rather a matter of weeks,” according to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

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Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper about her comments, von der Leyen, appearing on a joint panel beside Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, highlighted how the normal process of joining the European Union would take years, but it’s important to take an “extraordinary” step to shape the eventual reconstruction of Ukraine decimated by Russian forces.

“For Ukraine, the most important thing is to decide for themselves what they want to do in the future and how they want to shape their country. And they want to join the European Union,” she said.

“This is normally a process over years, indeed. And, yesterday, we did an important step forward,” the EU chief continued. “That is this questionnaire, which forms the basis for the information we have to then form an opinion whether I can, as a commission president, recommend the candidate status to the so-called council. So, it sounds technical, but it’s a very important step forward. ”

“Yesterday, somebody told me: ‘You know, when our soldiers are dying, I want them to know that their children will be free and be part of the European Union’,” von der Leyen said. “So, there’s a lot of hope in Ukraine that they – they belong to our European family, without any question. And, therefore, they are in an extraordinary situation, where we have to take unusual steps.”

Von der Leyen said the European Union has already committed $ 17 billion in structural funds to accommodate some 4 million Ukrainian refugees who had fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. An additional 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced and urgently need help through the Ukrainian authorities, she added.

“After this war, when Ukraine will be rebuilt, when we support Ukraine in reconstructing this country, this will be accompanied by reforms,” ​​she said. “So, it is an extraordinary way to shape the country and to go down the path towards the European Union. And we have done an important step yesterday.”

“Yesterday, I could deliver one billion euros directly for the Ukrainian government, but more, of course, has to come there too,” she continued. “And we know we are in for a long haul here to fight Putin’s aggression, to defend the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, but also, afterward, after that war, when Ukraine will have won that war, to reconstruct Ukraine and rebuild this country. “

Evans announced that a recent Global Citizen pledging event garnered $ 10.1 billion in commitments, including $ 4.6 billion in cash grants intended to support the people of Ukraine and displaced refugees.

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Trudeau said Canada is providing investigative support to the International Criminal Court to try Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, including evidence suggesting Russian forces systematically targeted civilians and used sexual violence and rape following the Bucha massacre.

So far, Canada, which has the third-largest population of Ukrainians behind Ukraine and Russia, has already accepted 14,000 Ukrainian refugees but is willing to accept more. Trudeau said many Ukrainian refugees so far expressed a desire to stay geographically close to husbands and fathers still in Ukraine.

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