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Von der Leyen stresses reform in speech to Ukrainian parliament

Brussels, 1 July 2022 (dpa/MIA) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday congratulated Ukrainian lawmakers on achieving EU candidacy status, even as the war with Russia continued to rage in the east and the south of the country, but stressed the need for further reforms.

Von der Leyen’s speech was displayed on a screen in the Ukrainian parliament, in a session attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I believe in Ukraine’s European future,” von der Leyen said, receiving standing ovations from deputies whose seats were decorated with small Ukrainian and EU flags.

Ukraine’s application to join the European Union was backed by EU leaders last week, making the country an official candidate for membership in the bloc.

Von der Leyen added that Ukraine still had much to accomplish before formal accession talks could begin, stressing the need to fight corruption and the power of oligarchs, as well as improve the judicial system and the independence of the media.

At the end of her speech, a large European Union flag was brought into the plenary hall and placed next to the Ukrainian flag – a moment that was met with applause and filmed by many lawmakers on their cell phones.

Zelensky cautioned that the flag should be “not just a beautiful symbol or gesture.”

He said the flag should rather be a reminder to “all branches of power” to implement the required reforms without delay.

Ukraine applied for EU membership days after the Russian invasion began and was granted candidate status in less than four months, a process that can take several years.

However, EU leaders have already warned that it could take “decades” before Ukraine would join the EU.

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