Zelensky reaffirms Ukraine-EU cooperation in first foreign trip

6 June 2019

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concluded on June 5 his first foreign trip, a two-day working visit to Brussels, reinforcing close cooperation with the EU, including organizing the next Ukraine-EU summit for July 8 in Kyiv. When meeting with EU Council President Donald Tusk, Zelensky reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to EU integration. “Ukraine in the EU is the death of the Russian imperial project,” he said, as tweeted by the Presidential Administration. “Moreover, it’s a powerful strike against Russian authoritarianism, and a path to democratic changes in Russia and the entire post-Soviet sphere.”

 

At a June 5 press conference with Tusk afterwards, Zelensky called for intensifying sanctions against the Russian government. From his end, Tusk condemned Russia’s decision to grant passports to Donbas residents and called for releasing 24 Ukrainian sailors illegally detained.  The same day, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported the EU will renew its sanctions against Russia for six months at its June 20 meeting. At the same time, no sanctions will be imposed related to the distribution of Russian passports, the report said.

 

The same morning in an interview with Ukrainian television, Zelensky called for a Ukrainian referendum on NATO membership once “all Ukrainians are ready” and have been adequately informed. On June 4, Zelensky met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss a wide range of issues on Ukraine-EU cooperation and “confirmed the mutual interest of the sides in further building cooperation in all directions that are of mutual interest,” the Presidential Administration press service said. In particular, Zelensky promised to uphold Ukraine’s strategic course to gaining full EU and NATO membership, as well as “Ukraine’s readiness to uphold the responsibilities it took upon itself, including relations with IFIs,” the press service stated.

 

Zenon Zawada: Zelensky selected his first foreign trip to Brussels deliberately, in order to dispel the narrative created by his political rivals that he is not committed to Euro-Atlantic integration. The trip is a success in demonstrating this commitment. He also was able to demonstrate that Western leaders have confidence in him, dispelling another narrative that he lacks respect. The big question is whether he will be able to withstand Russian pressure after this current honeymoon with the Ukrainian public, especially once his poll numbers begin to sag.

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