The European Union held an extraordinary meeting on Monday in the Ukrainian capital, signaling that the bloc is determined to continue supporting Kyiv as it battles against Russia’s invasion and strives to accelerate the E.U. membership process.
Foreign ministers from the 27 member states of the European Union were invited to the gathering in Kyiv, the capital — the first such meeting of the bloc outside its borders, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the bloc’s top diplomat, said on social media. Of those invited, 23 attended. The remaining four countries, including Poland and Hungary, sent other representatives.
“This meeting,” Mr. Borrell told reporters gathered in Kyiv, “should be understood as a clear commitment of the European Union to Ukraine and its continuous support in all dimensions.”
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has thrust the bloc into new territory: The European Union has imposed 11 rounds of economic sanctions on Russia, launched training missions for the Ukrainian military and, for the first time in the bloc’s history, provided funding for lethal weapons.
Mr. Borrell also expressed hope that member nations would before the end of the year approve a further 5 billion euros, or $5.3 billion, in military support for Ukraine in 2024, with “more to come.” Such a commitment would require the agreement of all E.U. member nations.
The “strongest security commitment” that the bloc could give Ukraine, Mr. Borrell acknowledged in remarks to reporters, would be E.U. membership.
The bloc’s top official, Ursula von der Leyen, called last month for a major expansion of member states to include Ukraine, as well as other countries where Moscow has sought to exert its influence, including Moldova, several Western Balkan nations and Georgia.
But joining the European Union is a long and arduous endeavor, especially for a nation at war. A candidate country has to fulfill numerous detailed criteria and align its law with the bloc’s regulations, a process that usually takes several years.
The E.U. last year gave Ukraine the coveted status of candidate country. It is expected to decide in December whether to allow Ukraine to open negotiations with the bloc, the next step in the process and one which would require the unanimous backing of all 27 member states.
The meeting on Monday in Kyiv came amid concerns about potential cracks in Western support for Ukraine as the country faces a critical winter and wages a grinding counteroffensive to retake land in its south and east.
A national election held over the weekend in Slovakia, an E.U. member, brought victory for a Russia-friendly populist party, whose leader vowed “not to send a single cartridge” of ammunition to neighboring Ukraine. Poland and Ukraine have been embroiled in a spat over Ukrainian grain exports. And in Washington over the weekend, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown that did not contain additional aid for Ukraine.
Addressing the foreign ministers, President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was confident that Ukraine would prevail against Russia, but added that “our victory explicitly depends on our cooperation.”
He later noted that the meeting had “proved unity in support for Ukraine.”
“Continued E.U. military aid for Ukraine is important, both immediate and long-term,” he added on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Mr. Borrell told reporters before Monday’s meeting that it remained crucial for the West to keep on supporting Ukraine, whatever it takes.
“Maybe it’s not being seen like this for everybody around the world, but for us Europeans, it’s an existential threat,” he said of Russian aggression. “And that’s why we have to continue supporting Ukraine, and discussing with our American allies and friends, for them, too, to continue supporting.”
Vivek Shankar contributed reporting from Seoul.