EU’s Michel lands in Kyiv as bloc looks at tough battle on Ukraine aid, accession talks
KYIV, UKRAINE – European Council President Charles Michel arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday (21 November) on yet another reassurance mission by a high-ranking EU official, just three weeks before a decisive end-of-year EU summit over support to Ukraine.
Michel’s visit, his fifth since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Euromaidan protests, which started on 21 November 2013 and were sparked by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s sudden decision not to sign the EU–Ukraine Association Agreement, and instead choosing closer ties to Russia.
Focus of the talks is the process of accession to the European Union: in fact, European leaders will have to decide in December whether or not to give the green light to the opening of negotiations, as recommended by the Commission.
Michel is expected to meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials.
In recent weeks, Ukraine and some of its staunchest supporters have voiced concerns that the attention from the US and its Western allies will shift towards the Middle East as worries grew about the Israel-Hamas war potentially destabilising the region.
Following Ukraine’s half-successful counteroffensive earlier this year, the war has largely reached a stalemate.
Europe and the US are increasingly worried that Ukraine might struggle to regain meaningful chunks of territory in the short term – especially over the winter – and are instead focusing their efforts on enabling Kyiv’s forces to hold the line against Russia.
European governments have started boosting their assistance to Ukraine amid growing concerns that Washington’s failure to approve new aid could cause Kyiv to lose ground.
Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came to Kyiv on a reassurance mission just ahead of her executive’s recommendation to start accession talks with Ukraine, promising Zelenskyy continued EU support.
Uncertainty over EU aid
Three weeks later, Michel’s visit comes as the EU is bogged down in difficulties in its efforts to provide more financial and military aid to Ukraine.
On 14-15 December, EU leaders will hold a decisive summit in Brussels, where they will decide whether to greenlight the opening of accession talks with the country and decide on an EU budget top-up that has delayed approval of the bloc’s €50 billion support package for Ukraine.
A new Ukraine war fund worth €20 billion in military aid for Kyiv is running into resistance from member states and may not survive in its current form.
Separately, an eighth €500 million tranche under the European Peace Facility (EPF) of reimbursement to member states is currently held up by Hungary over bilateral demands towards Kyiv.
At the same time, the debate over EU military aid comes as the bloc is unlikely to reach the pledged target of providing Ukraine with one million ammunition rounds by March 2024.
The hiccups with the EU’s military aid for Ukraine come as seasoned diplomats expect a tough EU December summit battle over the proposed EU budget revision, which is expected to be intertwined with Ukraine’s accession talks and domestic demands by some members of the bloc.