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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola hold a flag of Europea during a summit in Brussels today. ABACA/PA Images

EU parliament greets Zelenskyy with cheers as Ukrainian president wraps up European tour

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to attend his first EU summit since he was re-appointed in December.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Feb 2023

Tadgh McNally reports from Brussels

ALMOST A YEAR since Russia launched its war on Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has arrived in Brussels for high-level talks with European leaders.

The European Parliament this morning greeted Zelenskyy with a standing ovation as he arrived on his first visit to Brussels since Russia’s invasion.

“A Ukraine that is winning is going to be member of the European Union,” Zelenskyy said to applause, building his address around the common destiny Ukraine and the 27-nation bloc face in confronting Russia head-on.

“Europe will always be and remain Europe as long as we are together and as long as we take care of our Europe as we take care of the European way of life,” he said.

Zelenskyy added that Russia wants to destroy the European way of life but “we will not allow that.”

“Ukraine is Europe and your nation’s future is in the European Union,” said European Parliament president Roberta Metsola in a speech. 

“States must consider, quickly, as a next step, providing long-range systems and the jets you need to protect the liberty too many have taken for granted.”

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy told the Parliament that his country’s troops fighting Russian forces “are defending you”, as he urged more EU military support.

“We are defending against the most anti-European force of the modern world – we are defending ourselves, we Ukrainians on the battlefield, along with you,” Zelensky told MEPs.

He held up an EU flag after his address and the entire legislature stood in silence as the Ukrainian national anthem and then European anthem Ode To Joy were played.

Zelenskyy then headed to the urn-shaped Europa building, where the 27 EU leaders were meeting to push those same points.

European Council

That summit of European leaders – the European Council – is due to take place over the next two days in the Belgian capital, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar set to make his first appearance since he was re-appointed in December.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Varadkar said that the European Union would continue to stand with Ukraine.

“As we approach the first anniversary of Russia’s brutal and immoral invasion, the European Union will show that it stands resolutely with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Varadkar said.

“Ireland and the EU will provide Ukraine with the humanitarian, military and financial aid it needs until Russia has been repelled, and we want to see its application for EU membership progress as quickly as possible.”

The Ukrainian President yesterday confirmed that he would be travelling to Brussels today, following visits to both the UK and France yesterday.

Zelenskyy held meetings with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, seeking additional military support from European allies, particularly fighter jets.

“I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom,” Zelenskyy said, addressing MPs in London yesterday.

rishi-sunak-welcomes-volodymyr-zelenskyy-to-10-downing-street Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the door of No 10 Downing Street yesterday Tayfun Salci Tayfun Salci

Fianna Fáil MEP, Billy Kelleher, told The Journal that Zelenskyy’s visit to Brussels was “a big step” in progressing Ukraine’s plans to join the EU.

“I think President Zelenskyy’s visit to the European Parliament and the Council is very significant and symbolic because it is saying that Ukraine sees us as a partner,” Kelleher said.

“It also sees their place is closer cooperation and ultimately integration with the European Union.”

Ukraine was initially granted EU candidate status in June 2022.

Additional reporting by AFP and Press Association

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