February 26. 2024. 6:06

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The Brief — What Zelenskyy may get in Brussels… and what he won’t


Brussels will turn into a high-security madhouse when Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy touches down on his way back from the UK. But this one will be very different from his trips to Washington and London.

Zelenskyy travelled to Washington in December to plead for more financial and military aid from the United States, returning home with plenty to show for it, a package valued at about $1.8 billion.

Last week, during the two-day EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, the first to take place in an active war zone, Zelenskyy implored the bloc to take a tougher stance against Russia when it comes to sanctions. He got more military training commitments and called for Ukraine’s membership bid to join the EU to be accelerated.

The European Commission-to-Ukrainian government consultations, which were by far the more important part of that summit, were seen by many as a serious commitment to “progressive integration”, despite membership being years away.

From London, he’ll be coming away with new training programmes for Ukrainian fighter pilots who will be operating NATO-standard fighter jets, as well as for marines.

Between London and Brussels, the Ukrainian president will find time for a dinner in Paris, hosted by Emmanuel Macron and also attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, where they will discuss more arms deliveries and then travel jointly to Brussels, according to sources.

Getting Zelenskyy to Brussels is a huge security challenge in itself, not least because of the leaks ahead of his planned visit and concerns about his security.

What, then, can he bring home from Brussels?

Since the war started on 24 February 2022, Zelenskyy has addressed every single European summit. This time, next to symbolic gestures and photo-ops, the most important issue will be a chance to address EU leaders face-to-face, as a whole and bilaterally.

The Ukrainian side is expected to press member states on general support to speed up the delivery of weapons before Russia’s spring offensive.

This means speeding up the promised tank deliveries, committing more long-range missiles and air defence systems, plus – as an adviser to Zelenskyy told reporters on the eve of the summit – “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition”.

Zelenskyy will probably also press harder on sanctions against Moscow and demand the inclusion of nuclear, more specifically Rosatom, over the Russian occupation of nuclear power plants like Zaporizhzhia, which was captured by Russian troops last March and has repeatedly come under fire, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

After last week, EU accession is likely to loom large as well. Pending progress made on the seven recommendations by the European Commission and a positive outlook in the EU’s autumn enlargement package, Ukraine is absolutely convinced it can open negotiations by the end of this year.

Zelenskyy, however, is unlikely to get a firm commitment on this point.

And then, he is also expected to ask for the EU leader’s support for his peace formula, a ten-point plan that Kyiv believes could create a new, global security architecture.

If it sounds a little ambitious, it was to be expected from a man who – although some EU diplomats feared he would “not survive the next 48 hours” at the start of the invasion – has grown in stature and come to symbolise the fight for EU values.


The Roundup

Former EU lawmakers will be banned from lobbying the European Parliament for six months after leaving the institution, as part of a revised plan, seen by EURACTIV, proposed in the wake of the Qatargate corruption scandal.

The president of the French National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, has warned of the growing number of threats and pressure on parliamentarians, which she said was linked to the ongoing tension surrounding a planned reform of the country’s pension system.

Poland and the Baltic states are expected to push EU leaders to accelerate work on the use of frozen assets to support Ukraine’s reconstruction, according to a joint letter seen by EURACTIV.

The Nature Restoration Law, the first of its kind, is a proposal adopted by the European Commission in June 2022 which aims to restore damaged ecosystems and revive nature across Europe. The proposal is seen as instrumental in avoiding ecosystem collapse and preventing the worst impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

As the focus of EU leaders’ attention shifts away from the economic debate towards migration, a statement on economic “solidarity” within the EU was removed from the draft joint statement ahead of Thursday’s (9 February) summit in Brussels.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published the much-awaited proposal aimed at restricting 10,000 synthetic substances hazardous to human health, with the evaluation process set to start in March.

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, a trading arrangement negotiated during Brexit talks, does not breach the UK’s own Acts of Union following a legal challenge brought by the community’s unionist politicians.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard could harm competition across multiple markets.

Don’t forget to check out our Health Brief for a roundup of weekly news on healthcare in Europe.

Look out for…

  • EU leaders gather for Special European Council on migration, IRA/state aid, with a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
  • Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica in Washington DC, USA: participates in event on Combatting Global Inequalities in Aging and Longevity organised by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
  • Commissioner Nicolas Schmit participates in Plenary session of the Committee of the Regions during a session on European Year of Skills.
  • Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware on Thursday.