European Union leaders are to meet Thursday for a summit dominated by migration, the economy and, not surprisingly, Ukraine. Reports suggest Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — who arrived in London on Wednesday — may attend the Brussels summit in person.
The EU’s two-day summit comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and days after top EU officials held a summit with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Besides Western Europe, Ukraine’s leader has made only one other known trip outside his homeland since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; that trip was to Washington in December, where he met with United States President Joe Biden and addressed the U.S. Congress.
Zelenskyy wants several things from the Europeans, including to speed up Ukraine’s bid to join the EU, more weapons ahead of an expected Russian offensive, and more sanctions against Moscow.
Brussels is unlikely to fast-track Kyiv’s membership application. But in Kyiv last week, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen praised Zelenskyy’s commitment to join the bloc.
“I must say I am deeply impressed, and I want to commend you for the preciseness, the quality and the speed at which you deliver,” she said. “This is phenomenal.”
Europeans already have committed billions of dollars in defense and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Brussels is also expected to unveil a 10th sanctions package against Moscow later this month.
zeleMigration is also set to dominate the summit amid a sharp uptick in economic migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Europe this past year. That’s on top of the millions of Ukrainian war refugees.
Today, some EU member states are calling for tougher policies — and fences — against what they call “irregular” migration. Using EU funds for border fences is especially divisive.
“I think migration and asylum policy remains a very tricky issue within the EU — with the EU witnessing its biggest migration and asylum crisis since World War II,” said Pauline Veron, a policy advisor at the European Centre for Development Policy Management, a Netherlands-based think-tank.
Veron said that, even as many Europeans continue welcoming Ukrainian refugees, they are feeling rising angst about migration from Africa and elsewhere.