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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Commanding general of US Army Europe and Africa General Darryl A. Williams and Commander Security Assistance Group-Ukraine Lieutenant General Antonio Aguto welcome Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at US Army Europe and Africa headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany December 14, 2023. — Picture by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters
KYIV, Dec 15 — President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed a “victory” for Ukraine and the European continent yesterday after European Union leaders agreed to open membership talks for Ukraine and Moldova despite months of opposition from Hungary about Kyiv joining.
The decision announced by European Council President Charles Michel on the first day of a summit in Brussels is a much-needed morale boost for Kyiv, which fears vital Western support has been waning as its war with Russia rages on with no end in sight.
“I thank everyone who worked for this to happen and everyone who helped. I congratulate every Ukrainian on this day... History is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom,” Zelensky wrote in a post on social media platform X.
In a separate post on X, the president added: “This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens.”
Zelensky later issued a series of messages on Telegram, thanking Council President Michel for communicating the result personally and expressing gratitude to European leaders.
These included French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban before the result was announced.
He congratulated Moldovan President Maia Sandu on her country winning the right to launch talks and President Salome Zourabichvili on Georgia becoming a candidate for EU membership.
Kyiv residents were delighted at the EU summit outcome.
“Ukraine showed that it has qualities that make it different from our enemy,” said Volodymyr, 63.
“When people don’t like something, they express their will and change presidents. This movement is ceaseless since 2004, Ukraine was and is heading towards Europe.”
It was not immediately clear what the fate was of a four-year 50 billion euro aid package that Kyiv hopes will also be agreed by EU leaders at the summit this week.
Wartime membership bid
Ukraine announced its wartime bid to join the EU days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
“This is an extremely important milestone on our common path to the unification of Europe... When we started it, no one believed we’d succeed. But we didn’t care,” Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said.
Kyiv has been racing to adopt legislative reforms in recent weeks to meet the criteria for launching talks, but had faced staunch opposition from Hungary’s Orban.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “What a historic day! One emotion dominates: everything was not in vain.”
Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said: “(This) became possible only thanks to the strong will of all Ukrainians, our soldiers standing on the frontline.”
Russia, which has occupied more than a sixth of Ukraine’s territory, is a fierce opponent of Ukraine’s push to join Western institutions like the Nato military alliance.
Moscow’s troops seized and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 following mass protests in Kyiv that toppled a Russian-backed leader who had abandoned a push to sign an association agreement with the European Union.
Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and Romania, hailed the EU decision to open formal accession talks with it. Pro-Western President Sandu said Moldova would rise to the challenge and was committed to the “hard work” that lay ahead.
“Moldova turns a new page today with the EU’s go-ahead for accession talks. We’re feeling Europe’s warm embrace today. Thank you for your support and faith in our journey,” Sandu wrote on X. — Reuters
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