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EU foreign ministers meet in Kyiv in show of support to Ukraine

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**This is a developing story.

KYIV, UKRAINE – EU foreign ministers are paying a surprise visit to Ukraine’s capital on Monday (2 October) for an informal meeting meant as a show of support for the war-torn country.

It is a bold move and also the first time that EU foreign ministers meet informally in a third country, not to mention, a country at war.

The meeting follows another landmark visit in February when the EU’s leadership touched down in Kyiv for European Commission/Ukrainian government consultations and an EU-Ukraine summit.

“Our support doesn’t depend on how the war is going on in the next days and weeks,” the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters, including Euractiv, in Kyiv on the eve of the meeting.

“Let’s see what will happen in the US, but from our side, we will continue supporting and increasing our support,” Borrell said, asked about the vote in Washington.

“We have to provide permanent and structural support because we are facing an existential threat for Europe,” he stressed.

Borrell had first revealed intentions to bring his European counterparts on the ground in Ukraine earlier this month, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Walking the streets of the Ukrainian capital has become more normal in recent weeks, with only occasional anti-tank roadblocks and people filling parks and restaurants, away from the fierce fighting in the country’s east.

Only last week, Russia launched its largest missile barrage against Ukraine in weeks, signalling difficult winter months ahead and the likelihood of a renewed push by Moscow to bombard critical power stations and other infrastructure.

On Saturday (30 September), Borrell paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine’s embattled port city of Odesa on the Black Sea, where he condemned as “barbaric” the damage inflicted by recent Russian assaults on the city.

He also reproached Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for ending a UN-brokered grain deal that allowed Ukrainian exports across the Black Sea, despite Russia’s blockade of the ports, which has been seen as essential for addressing global food insecurity and containing grain prices.

“In spite of all of that, Ukraine continues being the biggest provider of grain to the World Food Program, and that is another reason to continue supporting Ukraine,” Borrell said.

Security guarantees, military aid

Euractiv understands that the main topics of the Monday meeting’s agenda are expected to be Ukraine’s EU integration, a show of support as the country finds itself in a critical phase of its counteroffensive against Russia, and taking stock of some critical measures, such as military aid and further tightening of sanctions.

On the sidelines of Monday’s meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, EU foreign ministers are also expected to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We expect that during the talks in Kyiv foreign ministers will have a meaningful discussion on security commitments,” an EU official told Euractiv.

Speaking to reporters, including Euractiv, in Kyiv on Sunday (1 October) Borrell said the bloc would increase military support to Ukraine after the US Congress passed a stopgap funding bill late on Saturday that omitted aid to Ukraine.

Borrell said that in the face of an “existential threat for Europe,” the “proposition on the table” showed the EU wanted to increase military aid to Ukraine.

He was speaking after his first in-person meeting with Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, who was appointed last month.

“Let’s see what will happen in the US, but from our side, we will continue supporting and increasing our support,” Borrell said, asked about the vote in Washington.

“Ukrainians are fighting with all their courage and capacities,” he said. If the EU wants them to be more successful, he added, “we have to provide them with better arms, and bigger”.

Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) announced on Friday that it had temporarily removed Hungary’s OTP Bank from a list of “international sponsors of war,” a move the agency said was aimed at securing Budapest’s support for the latest package of EU military aid to Ukraine.

OTP had been added to Ukraine’s blacklist earlier this year in May, prompting Hungary to cause a deadlock over the bloc’s eighth tranche of military aid to Ukraine, an additional EUR500 million, under the European Peace Facility (EPF).

So far, under the EPF, the EU has allocated EUR5.6 billion for Ukraine. However, negotiations at the EU level have proved laborious, with top-ups to the fund often running into delays or outright opposition by Hungary.

The temporary removal was a result of negotiations with the bank and officials in Budapest, though a permanent removal from the blacklist in the future would depend on the bank’s willingness to terminate cooperation with Russia, the agency said in a statement.

“We’ve seen some positive signals on the EUR500 million tranche, which means the issue could move over the next weeks,” the EU official said.

At the same time, the EU’s diplomatic service EEAS had before the summer drafted a proposal for a dedicated ‘Ukraine Assistance Fund’, embedded into the EPF, to keep the country’s armed forces equipped for the next four years at a cost of up to EUR20 billion, or EUR5 billion annually.

Borrell’s proposal still requires the green light of all EU member states but no decisions have been made so far, with discussions expected to take place by the end of this year.

Accession prospects

Another issue on the agenda will be Ukraine’s future accession prospects.

Ukraine applied for EU membership just days after Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022 and was granted candidacy status several months later in a strong signal of support.

Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi is attending the meeting on behalf of the European Commission, which is expected to issue its annual enlargement progress report later this month.

On the basis of the report, EU leaders are expected to decide in December whether or not to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and, possibly, Moldova.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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