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Von der Leyen praises Ukraine's 'excellent progress' ahead of key report on its bid to join EU

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Ukraine for making "excellent progress" in its bid to join the European Union, bolstering the country's hopes days before the EU executive branch delivers a long-awaited report card on accession.

In a surprise visit to Kyiv over the weekend, von der Leyen also reiterated promises to continue supporting Ukraine throughout the ongoing war and through its reconstruction and to soon announce a 12th package of sanctions against Russia.

"I must say that you have made excellent progress – this is impressive to see," von der Leyen said in a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "We will testify to this next week when the Commission will present its report on enlargement. I want to tell you how impressed we are by the reforms you have made in the midst of a war."

She made the comments ahead of a Nov. 8 report from Brussels assessing the progress of Ukraine and the other candidates seeking to start talks to join the European Union. The visit also comes as many fear donor nations, particularly the United States, are distracted by the outbreak of violence in the Middle East.

Serious prospects of EU membership would be a major boon to the reconstruction of Ukraine, locking in much of the planned spending and committing EU member nations to help Ukraine recover far into the future. To win EU approval, Ukraine needs to show significant reforms in several areas, particularly in fighting corruption.

If the commission delivers a positive assessment of Ukraine's progress on Nov 8, the EU leaders will decide in a Dec 14-15 summit whether to formally start membership talks with Ukraine.

"We should never forget that you are fighting an existential war. And, at the same time, you are deeply reforming your country," von der Leyen said. "You have reached many milestones: reforming your justice system, curbing the oligarchs' grip, tackling money laundering – and much more. This is the result of hard work."

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