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Ursula Von Der Leyen Says ‘Direction of Travel’ is EU Membership for Ukraine

European Commission head is seeking to curb Russian influence in central and eastern Europe

The EU has said it will be impossible to envisage a future for the bloc without Ukraine and Moldova as members, in part to reduce Russian influence in east and central Europe.

While other countries such as Romania and Bulgaria took 11 years to become members of the EU, joining in 2007, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, hinted the future of the new accession candidates will be swiftly decided.

“Can you imagine the European Union will be without Ukraine, without Moldova without the western Balkans? And those parts of Europe are under the influence of Russia or China? Impossible. So the direction of travel is clear,” she said at the launch of the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU in Madrid.

It will mean that the rest of the EU must begin the conversations that will flow from inevitable enlargement including budgets and reform of agriculture policy.

“Now we have to start to think about how are we making sure that Europe is home; that those countries are part of the European Union, and these are principled decisions that we have to take, we have to discuss how the decision-making process will look like. We have to discuss how the common funding that we have will be allocated, what are common policies that we follow,” she said adding these questions had to be addressed “as soon as possible”.

Earlier reports – later clarified by her spokesperson – had suggested Von der Leyen had sought membership for the two within four years.

The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who has called a snap election for the end of July, set out his plans for the country’s EU presidency.

He set out four priorities including continued support for Ukraine and harnessing what Von der Leyen described as Spain’s “global clout” to get the Mercosur trade deal with Latin American countries over the line.

He also wants to wean the EU off Chinese dependency for critical raw materials and build resilience in supply chains for new medicines.

He also committed to accelerate initiatives to move the EU’s energy supply to renewables while at the same time introducing laws to eliminate micro-plastics.

Rights for workers, including gig workers, along with social rights and tax evasion by multinationals were also listed as targets for the next six months as is the vexed issue of completing the draft migration legislation agreed by the majority of the bloc but opposed by Poland.

Under the system of rotating six-month presidencies, each country is able to identify its own priorities in the race to get legislation over the line during its term.

Sanchez is overseeing what has been dubbed the “golden presidency”, the last full stewardship by a member state before the European parliamentary elections next year.

He made no mention of the fate of the Nature Restoration Law, which remains deadlocked after centre-right politicians blocked its passage through a key committee stage in the European parliament last week or the future of the Media Freedom Act, which includes clauses that would allow national security forces to place spyware on journalists’ phones.

Source : The Guardian