Von der Leyen describes ‘hard work’ needed for Ukraine to join EU – POLITICO

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, presented the next steps for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union on Friday morning, during a virtual speech in front of the Ukrainian parliament.

“The next steps are within your reach. But they will require hard work, determination and above all unity of purpose,” she told the Rada.

This path includes the fight against corruption, a promise on which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected in 2019. “You have created an impressive anti-corruption machine. But now these institutions need teeth and the right people in leadership positions,” she said. Von der Leyen said Ukraine should appoint new heads for the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and the national anti-corruption office as soon as possible, both of which started operating in 2015.

Von der Leyen also insisted on the need to reform the country’s Constitutional Court, namely legislation outlining the procedures for selecting judges, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

Von der Leyen also mentioned a controversial anti-oligarch law, according to which the body that decides who is an oligarch is appointed by the president himself. Critics of the law see it as a populist move that could empower the incumbent president. “Today, Ukraine is the only country in Europe’s Eastern Partnership to have passed a law to break the hold of the oligarchs on your economic and political life. And I congratulate you on that,” she said. But von der Leyen added that Ukraine must now focus on implementing the law, « in a legally valid way ».

She also addressed the independence of the media, saying that a media law should be adopted in line with current European standards.

The European Council granted Ukraine, along with Moldova, candidate status on 23 June. It was the first step on the road to EU membership, which will probably take years. But EU leaders moved with record speed, at least in the early stages of Ukraine’s bid for membership, partly in an effort of solidarity in the face of Russia’s brutal war.

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