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The president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola called on Saturday, during a visit to Ukraine, for the country to be allowed to begin EU membership negotiations this year.
"I am hopeful that accession negotiations can begin already this year," Metsola said in the western city of Lviv. "Ukraine's future is in the European Union."
Brussels granted Kyiv formal candidate status in June last year, four months after Russia launched an all-out invasion, but the process of joining the European Union usually takes several years.
A final decision will depend on EU member state governments, some of which are sceptical that Ukraine can recover from war and enact the necessary democratic and anti-corruption reforms to qualify for membership any time soon.
But Metsola, who met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, is among those in Brussels who are optimistic that both the membership bid and reforms can be fast-tracked.
"The pace with which the Verkhovna Rada and the government is making progress on the EU application impresses me," she said.
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In a message relayed on social media after the meeting, Zelensky thanked Metsola for her role in securing the European Parliament's support for the membership application.
"Ukraine aims to complete the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission as soon as possible and to start negotiations on joining the EU already this year," he said.
Once formal negotiations begin, the European Commission will have to judge whether Kyiv has met the EU membership criteria in terms of good governance, democratic freedoms and the rule of law and then issue its opinion.
Then, the leaders of the 27 current EU memberships will decide if and when to admit their new neighbour. The process has often taken more than five years and for some candidates such as Turkey and the countries of the western Balkans it has all but ground to a halt.