Zelensky presses Ukraine’s case in Brussels, the third stop in a brief but packed European tour.

Zelensky presses Ukraine’s case in Brussels, the third stop in a brief but packed European tour.


BRUSSELS — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was in Brussels on Thursday to meet the European Union’s 27 heads of government, repeating his case for E.U. membership as he topped off a short tour of key European allies.

Mr. Zelensky’s first stop on Thursday was at the European Parliament, where he was welcomed with enthusiastic applause. The Ukrainian leader, making only his second trip outside of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last year, was visibly moved when the Ukrainian national anthem played, holding his hand over his heart.

In his address to a packed Parliament, Mr. Zelensky outlined his country’s commitment to “the European way of life, European life standards, and European rules,” making an impassioned case that his country belongs in the bloc.

“This is our Europe,” he said. “These are rules. This is our way of life. And for Ukraine it’s a way home. I’m here in order to defend our people’s way home.”

Mr. Zelensky is set to join the E.U. leaders for a summit that will go into the afternoon. The Ukrainian leader has been pushing for accelerated E.U. membership for his country. But, while the bloc’s leaders have reiterated their commitment to supporting Ukraine, they have gently applied the brakes on talk of fast-track membership.

On Wednesday, he made a surprise visit to London and then traveled to Paris, holding talks with the British, French and German leaders.

While Mr. Zelensky focused on military aid in discussions on Wednesday — with Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, in England, and in Paris with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany — in Brussels he is expected to be more intent on politics and diplomacy. And that, E.U. officials and diplomats who briefed reporters ahead of Mr. Zelensky’s visit, meant that the summit was not likely to give him anything concrete to take home.

The E.U. officials and diplomats said that military aid would likely be avoided as a topic as the E.U. is not a military alliance, and Mr. Zelensky had already made his case on the need for more weapons with the region’s biggest military donors on Wednesday.

Rather, Mr. Zelensky was expected to thank European leaders for their support and ask for more sanctions to counter Russia’s aggression. He was also expected to brandish his country’s reform drive, part of Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union.

E.U. leaders visiting him in Kyiv earlier this month delivered the delicate message that Ukraine would not be fast-tracked into the bloc. Joining the E.U. normally takes aspiring members more than a decade of work to comply with European governing standards.

But Mr. Zelensky wants that process to be faster, partly to maintain a national sense of momentum toward a brighter future.

The E.U. officials also expected to discuss the question of how Ukraine would manage billions of dollars of aid from the European Union, both for its current operations and for its future reconstruction. The country’s poor track record with corruption is a constant concern for European policymakers, and Mr. Zelensky has in recent weeks made considerable efforts to clean up part of the administration and illustrate his commitment to improving the nation’s governance.

Another issue likely to be on the leaders’ agenda is the effort to seize the European assets of sanctioned Russian entities or the Russian state, and use them to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction. While a popular idea, the European laws involved in seizing assets belonging to sanctioned foreign individuals or governments are extremely complex, to the point of potentially making the process unfeasible, according to many E.U. legal experts.

And Mr. Zelensky will also likely call on the European leaders to continue supporting Ukraine despite the economic fallout of the Russian invasion and the difficulties of hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees on the continent.

The New York Times 

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