BRUSSELS — European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said she wants the European Union to open serious negotiations on Ukraine’s EU membership bid in mid-December this year.
“We must keep our promises on opening negotiations,” the Maltese member of European Parliament told journalists after participating in a summit of EU heads of state and government. “Ukraine’s efforts on reforms have been extraordinary, even and especially in times of war. If the reform criteria have been sufficiently met, we need to respond.”
“And I remain optimistic that this can still be achieved this year,” Metsola said.
Metsola has been one of the most outspoken EU figures supporting Ukraine’s bid to become the bloc’s 28th member, having twice visited the country since the full-scale invasion started and meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who addressed EU leaders by video link Thursday. She pushed for months for Ukraine’s accession talks to start this year, but had yet to propose a specific moment for that.
The decision to start the next phase of talks, however, lies squarely with the European Council, which has the whip hand on EU foreign policy matters.
David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian member of parliament who leads Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party in the Ukraine Parliament, said in Brussels earlier Thursday that he hoped talks start this year.
“We need to give hope to Ukrainian people who are fighting every day,” he said. The Ukrainian people are only waiting for two things, Arakhamia said when arriving at a meeting of European liberal parties: “A clear sign that Ukraine is going to be part of the EU family, and […] a security sign that Ukraine is going to be part of NATO.”
When asked by a Ukrainian journalist about Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc, Metsola said, “I am optimistic by the statements that I heard from the leaders” — not only upon entry to the European Council, but also in closed-door conversations. “There is momentum, and that momentum will not stop.”
“Our hope would be that the December European Council will be the place or the time where that step can be taken,” Metsola added, framing it as an appeal both from her and from the Parliament as a whole. That meeting will take place on December 14 and 15.
“Once the reforms […] have been completed, then we have to take the equivalent step from our end,” Metsola said.
Arakhamia said Ukraine “will work on every level” to complete necessary reforms.