By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his July 1 visit to Kyiv demonstrates the European Union’s “clear and unequivocal political commitment” to Ukraine’s efforts to join the 27-member bloc, even as it battles against Russia’s full-scale invasion.
“Speaking of the European Union’s perspective on Ukraine’s EU accession, my being here on the first day of [Spain’s] six-month presidency…demonstrates a clear and unequivocal political commitment on the part of the community institutions in this respect,” Sanchez said in a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for the positive trend and encourage it to continue its path of reforms,” he added.
In an earlier address to the Ukrainian parliament, Sanchez said his country will provide an additional 55 million euro ($60 million) in financial aid to help Ukraine rebuild its economy in the face of the Russian invasion.
Sanchez is visiting Kyiv to meet with Zelenskiy and other officials and to demonstrate ongoing EU support for Ukraine on the first day of Spain’s six-month stint as president of the Council of the European Union.
In a joint declaration, the two leaders stated: “Spain reiterates its support to the candidacy of Ukraine to join the EU, which will be among the priorities of its presidency. Spain supports strengthening NATO’s partnership with Ukraine, including through the creation of a NATO-Ukraine Council.”
The trip comes with Ukraine’s civilian and military leaders urging more urgent supplies of advanced weaponry, including fighter jets, to boost a counteroffensive that Kyiv says is progressing slowly but steadily to push Russian forces out of the country following their full-scale invasion 16 months ago.
Sanchez was quoted as saying in Kyiv that “we are with you and we will be as long as necessary,” adding, “I wanted to tell you that we will support Ukraine, regardless of the price.”
Upon his arrival, Sanchez posted a video from the train station in Kyiv in which he was being met by a Ukrainian delegation.
“I wanted the first act of the Spanish presidency of the council of the European Union to be in Ukraine together with @ZelenskyyUa,” Sanchez wrote alongside the clip, using the Ukrainian president’s Twitter handle.
Sanchez added that he wanted to convey to the Ukrainian parliament and government “all of Europe’s solidarity.”
“We will maintain our support for the Ukrainian people until peace returns to Europe,” he said.
Sanchez reportedly traveled via Poland.
The visit comes ahead of a NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital later this month where transatlantic allies are expected to hash out a strategy and road map for relations with Ukraine, which has dramatically intensified its calls for EU and NATO membership since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022.
NATO is not expected to offer membership at the Vilnius summit, although many Western military and other officials argue that the conflict with Russia, the resulting Western equipment and training, and Ukrainians’ staunch defense of their country combine to make the Ukrainian military an elite European fighting force.
Spain has been in NATO since 1982 and a member of the European Union since 1986.
It was among the first European states to provide nonlethal support for the Ukrainian military with shipments of bulletproof jackets and helmets after the all-out Russian invasion began in February 2022.
It pivoted quickly to back Ukraine despite fears that it might cling to a “hope that Moscow might somehow form part of a future European security architecture,” according to the Elcano Royal Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
Polls cited on July 1 show Spain’s conservative People’s Party as the front-runner to win the most seats in Spain’s national elections set for next month, ahead of Sanchez’s ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).