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Ukraine progresses on reforms to unlock membership talks, says EU

BRUSSELS: Senior EU officials said on Thursday that Ukraine is making progress on political reforms to open the way for European Union membership talks but still needs to progress in five important areas.

The assessment, by the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, offered Kyiv hope that it could achieve its aim of getting the green light for membership talks in December even it fights to repel Russia’s invasion.

But it also made clear that Ukraine has a way to go just to complete the seven steps that the EU outlined last year when it granted Kyiv the status of a candidate for membership.

“They are on track, they are working hard. After all, the country is under attack,” said Oliver Varhelyi, the European Commissioner for relations with the EU’s neighbours. “Compared to that, I think that they are delivering.”

In an update for the EU’s member countries, Varhelyi said Kyiv had completed two of the seven steps, as reported on Monday — reform of two judicial bodies and the adoption of media legislation in line with EU standards.

He said Ukraine had made progress but had more work to do on constitutional court reform, on measures to fight corruption, money laundering and curb the influence of oligarchs, and on the treatment of minorities.

He also stressed the European Commission would look at a broader range of factors in a full report in October on Ukraine’s suitability for membership talks.

“We are just in the middle of the work so it’s too early to tell you where they are going to be,” he told reporters after presenting his assessment to European affairs ministers from the bloc’s 27 member countries in Stockholm.

Jessika Roswall, Sweden’s European affairs minister, said Ukraine’s reform efforts had been “impressive” in the face of “extraordinary circumstances.”

“Ukraine has taken substantial steps forward,” she said. Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European integration, said the assessment held no surprises.

She told Ukrainian TV the government would now focus on the steps necessary to get a positive verdict in October and it was cautiously optimistic that it would achieve one.

A decision on whether and when to start accession talks rests with the EU’s member governments.

Varhelyi also said Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova had completed three of the nine steps outlined by the EU when it was granted membership candidate status at the same time as Kyiv last year.

He said Georgia had completed three of 12 steps outlined by the EU on its bid to be a membership candidate.

To join the EU, a country has to align its laws with many e EU standards ranging from climate to labor. That process usually takes many years.

Ukraine’s neighbors on the EU’s eastern flank, Poland and the Baltic states, generally support a fast track for Kyiv, while western, older member states including France, Germany and the Netherlands are cooler on the idea.

Meanwhile, foreign donors have pledged 60 billion euros ($66 billion) of new financial support for Ukraine, the UK said Thursday, as an international conference aimed at funding the war-ravaged country´s reconstruction closed.

“We had not envisaged this to be a pledging conference. Nevertheless, today at this conference, we can announce a combined 60 billion euros in support to Ukraine,” said James Cleverly, foreign minister of the UK, which hosted the meeting.

The commitments from governments and international organisations target supporting Ukraine in the short- and medium-term, Cleverly said at the closing session of the London conference.

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