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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who recently offered Ukraine a fast track to EU membership, claimed on Sunday that “an important step forward” was being taken to ensure that Ukrainian soldiers risk their lives, that their children one day will live in a Ukraine. free of Russian rule.
Her remarks on CNN “State of the Union” on Sunday came after von der Leyen recently visited Kiev. The head of the EU presented to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a questionnaire, the answers to which will form the basis of an opinion to be forwarded to the European Council this summer.
Speaking at a joint press conference, von der Leyen said that the questionnaire “is where your path towards the European Union begins”, adding that this step “will not, as usual, be a matter of years, but rather a matter of in weeks. ” according to the German television company Deutsche Welle (DW).
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Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper about her comments, von der Leyen, who appeared in a joint panel alongside Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, highlighted how the normal process of becoming a member of the European Union would take years, but it is important to take an “extraordinary” step to shape the possible reconstruction of Ukraine decimated by Russian forces.
“For Ukraine, the most important thing is to decide for themselves what they want to do in the future and how they want to shape their country. And they want to join the EU,” she said.
“This is usually a process over the years, yes. And yesterday we took an important step forward,” the EU chief continued. “It is this questionnaire that forms the basis of the information we have in order to form an opinion on whether I, as President of the Commission, can recommend candidate status to the so-called Council. So it sounds technical, but it is a very important step forward. . ”
“Yesterday, someone said to me, ‘You know, when our soldiers die, I want them to know that their children will be free and part of the European Union,'” von der Leyen said. “So there is a great hope in Ukraine that they – they belong to our European family, without a doubt. And therefore they are in an extraordinary situation where we have to take unusual steps.”
Von der Leyen said the European Union has already committed $ 17 billion in structural funds to receive about 4 million Ukrainian refugees who had fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. Another 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced and urgently need help through the Ukrainian authorities, she added.
“After this war, when Ukraine will be rebuilt, when we support Ukraine in rebuilding this country, this will be accompanied by reforms,” she said. “So it’s an extraordinary way of shaping the country and going down the road towards the European Union. And we took an important step yesterday.”
“Yesterday I was able to deliver a billion euros directly to the Ukrainian government, but of course more is needed for that too,” she continued. “And we know that we are here for a long time to fight Putin’s aggression, to defend Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty, but also afterwards, after the war in which Ukraine will have won that war, to rebuild Ukraine and rebuild this country. . “
Evans announced that a recent Global Citizen event raised $ 10.1 billion in commitments, including $ 4.6 billion in cash grants intended to support Ukraine’s people and displaced refugees.
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Trudeau said Canada is providing investigative support to the International Criminal Court to investigate Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, including evidence that Russian forces systematically targeted civilians and used sexual violence and rape after the Bucha massacre.
So far, Canada, which has the third largest population of Ukrainians behind Ukraine and Russia, has already received 14,000 Ukrainian refugees, but is willing to accept more. Trudeau said many Ukrainian refugees so far have expressed a desire to remain geographically close to husbands and fathers who are still in Ukraine.