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Zelensky arrives at European Parliament in Brussels, greeted by top EU leaders
President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in Brussels with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, heading straight to the European Parliament, where he is due to give an in-person speech.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, who visited Kyiv for the historic Ukraine-EU Summit on Feb. 3, greeted Zelensky as he landed.
“Welcome home, welcome to the EU,” Michel tweeted, attaching a photo showing Zelensky’s arrival.
Zelensky is set to join the 28 EU leaders at their summit, attending it for the first time in person after participating in most of them virtually last year.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola referred to Zelensky’s arrival at the Parliament "historic day for Europe.”
Zelensky’s first in-person visit to the European Parliament since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion comes amid his second known international trip, where he has asked for fighter jets from the leaders of the U.K., France, and Germany “as soon as possible.”
The Ukrainian leader is expected to ask for more weapons – including longer-range ones – and a fast start to the country’s EU accession talks. At the Ukraine-EU Summit held on Feb. 3, the EU leaders remained vague on the timeline of Ukraine’s EU bid, with von der Leyen saying that there were no "no rigid timeliness" on when Ukraine would get its long-dreamt membership.
Zelensky said that he believes Ukraine should start the accession talks this year, having officially gained candidate status in June 2022.
Ukraine’s road to full EU membership is expected to take years. Ukraine has suffered from endemic corruption, and the slow progress of judicial reforms were a cause for concern before Russia plunged the country into a full-scale war.
It often takes many years for candidate countries to have accession negotiations opened by the EU. Macron said in May 2022 that it could be “decades” for Ukraine to join the bloc. While Ukraine’s hopes of a fast track to full EU membership did not materialize, the bloc on Feb. 3 hailed Ukraine's "considerable efforts" in recent months toward a potential membership.
Nevertheless, Zelensky's visit to the European Parliament and his close relationship with the leaders is highly symbolic, sending a strong message to Moscow that the West is united with Ukraine.