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Ukraine’s EU reforms ‘deeply impressive’: Von der Leyen

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TERVUREN, Belgium — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Ukraine had fulfilled “almost” all the requirements set out by the EU to start accession talks, ahead of a pivotal European Council summit in December.

“To see the deep and structural reforms that Ukraine is doing while fighting an existential war is to me deeply impressing,” von der Leyen told a POLITICO event.

“They have fulfilled all the necessary requirements for almost all the seven steps we asked them to do … when they became a candidate country.”

The EU is expected to announce the opening of accession talks for Ukraine, which was granted candidate status in June, following the mid-December summit of European leaders in Brussels.

Earlier this month, von der Leyen said Ukraine had completed “well over 90 percent” of the prerequisites set out by the EU, as the Commission recommended opening accession talks with both Ukraine and Moldova.

During her POLITICO interview, von der Leyen also touched on a former EU member country — the United Kingdom, whose departure following the 2016 Brexit referendum shook the bloc’s foundations.

Asked if she thought the U.K. could ever rejoin the EU, von der Leyen said undoing Brexit was an issue for the next generation.

“I keep telling my children: You have to fix it. We goofed it up, you have to fix it,” the head of the Commission said.

Turning to the future, von der Leyen reiterated the need for the EU to reduce its dependence on China — especially regarding critical minerals, where Beijing has asserted its dominance.

“Since 20 years, China has bought mine after mine globally, takes the raw material, processes it in China and has the monopoly on some of the critical raw materials like, for example, lithium for clean technologies,” von der Leyen said.

“This is the reason why I said we have to de-risk, not decouple from China … because it would not be in our interest and I think it is not viable.”

With the end of her first term as Commission president in sight as Europe prepares for June EU elections, von der Leyen, who has yet to announce a bid for a second mandate, remained guarded.

“Typically I say nice try when this question comes,” the Commission chief said. “So unfortunately I have to leave you with that big question mark.”

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