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Joining EU is not a top priority for Ukraine – Zelensky

Joining the EU is not a top priority for Kiev, with the country more concerned with security issues amid the ongoing military conflict with Russia, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted Thursday.

“I believe that Ukraine’s membership in the EU is not the top priority now, but above all – security and war. But it shows the attitude towards [the country], and it is important,” he said.

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The remarks come days after Kiev lodged a formal membership request with the EU. On Monday, Zelensky called on the bloc to accept Ukraine as soon as possible, further reinforcing the push for membership during his speech at the European Parliament the next day.

“Prove that you are with us. Prove that you will not let us go. Prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” Zelensky told MEPs, receiving a standing ovation.

The top EU officials, however, have expressed only reserved support towards Kiev’s push for membership, warning that its potential accession could not occur at once and could actually take “years” to happen. No fast-track mechanism to accept new members into the bloc exists, as the candidate countries are required to reach assorted political and economic milestones to get in.

Joining the EU has been among the top talking points for pro-West politicians in Ukraine for years already, yet little to no actual progress has been made on that path. Getting accepted into the bloc was also among the centerpieces of the chaotic 2014 Maidan events, that ultimately sparked the years-long conflict in the country’s east, after Kiev forces tried to quell the rebel republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

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