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"The future of Ukraine is in our Union," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her annual state of the union address to the European Parliament on Sept. 13.
The EU needs a fresh vision for successful enlargement, now that "history is calling us to work on completing our union," she told the parliament in Strasbourg.
"We cannot afford to leave our fellow Europeans behind," she said.
Von der Leyen's appeal also emphasized the "strategic and security interests" at stake in today's world, where the size of the bloc matters.
Much of her speech focused on opening a path to membership for Ukraine, as well as Moldova and the western Balkans.
However, the commission president stressed that EU "accession is merit-based" for all potential members and the path to becoming a member is requires leadership and reforms.
"We know this is not an easy road," she said, but that "we have seen the great strides Ukraine has already made since we granted them candidate status."
Von der Leyen previously said at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London in June that she has "no doubt Ukraine will be part of our Union."
In August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a meeting with von der Leyen during the Ukraine-Balkan summit in Athens.
Following the meeting, he said that he expects a decision from EU member states on starting Ukraine’s EU accession negotiations at the end of 2023.