On Thursday, head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and 15 European commissioners arrived in Kyiv. They will negotiate with Ukraine's leadership, which is hoping for news of the country's rapid move towards EU membership, but European diplomats are signaling that this could take a considerable amount of time.
The message of the European Commission said that the meeting in Kyiv "will allow to exchange views on many areas of cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, to discuss future reconstruction, as well as the country's European path."
The EU accession process usually takes several years, and there are currently several countries in the queue. In addition to Ukraine, Albania (in 2014), Moldova (in 2022), North Macedonia (in 2005), Montenegro (in 2008), Serbia (in 2009) and Turkey (in 1999).
The Ukraine-EU summit is a key event in relations between Kyiv and Brussels. They usually take place towards the end of the year to take stock of cooperation over the past 12 months, sign documents or announce breakthrough solutions. But in 2022, due to the war, the summit was postponed several times and in the end it was decided to hold it at the beginning of 2023. The time and place were finalized only on January 9th.
A preliminary version of the EU statement, which diplomats will release after the summit, says that the future of Ukraine is in the European Union. It also acknowledges the significant efforts made by Kyiv in recent months to confirm its candidacy status. But sources in Brussels told the BBC that several countries, including France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries, have secured changes to parts of the statement that they felt were overly optimistic in tone.
Senior European officials have no doubt that Ukraine will join the EU in the future, but, according to BBC sources, no one wants to give an exact time frame. "We will do it, but the shortest route will not work," one of the diplomats said.
Brussels will officially evaluate Ukraine's progress in reforms only this autumn, but the Ukrainian side made it clear that it has serious hopes for the summit.