Sánchez travels to Kyiv on day Spain begins EU presidency to underline bloc’s support for Ukraine

MADRID (AP) — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez kicked off Spain’s six-month European Union presidency with a whirlwind visit to Kyiv on Saturday to underscore the bloc’s support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Sánchez arrived in the Ukrainian capital by train from Poland.

The Spanish government said it would address the Ukrainian parliament at 08:30 GMT (4:30 a.m. EDT) and then meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The two will give a press conference at around 10:30 a.m. GMT (06:30 a.m. EDT).

Zelenskyy announced the visit Thursday in an address to European leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels. He underlined the symbolism of the visit and the importance of the next six months for Europe. He added that it was time to start negotiations for Ukraine’s entry into the EU.

Speaking in Brussels on Friday, Sánchez said: “The war in Ukraine will be one of the top priorities of our presidency, with a focus on ensuring unity (on the issue) among all member states.” .

It was Sánchez’s third visit to Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Sánchez will return to Madrid on Sunday, when he meets European Council President Charles Michel, a day before the arrival of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the college of EU commissioners.

Besides Ukraine, Spain hopes to make progress on several major EU issues during its presidency, which ends on December 31.

Sánchez believes the EU will finalize a controversial migration pact despite lingering differences within the group of 27 nations with Poland and Hungary still evident on Friday.

Earlier this month, EU countries made a breakthrough in asylum reform, sealing an agreement on a plan to share responsibility for migrants entering Europe without permission. Only Poland and Hungary voted against.

European lawmakers have warned that this could be the last chance to resolve the issue before the European elections in a year, when migration is likely to become a hot topic again.

The rotating presidency comes as Spain faces a snap general election on July 23, which polls suggest could oust Sánchez’s left-wing coalition government and replace it with a conservative administration, or even an extreme coalition. right, and follow a trend that is happening in much of Europe. .

Sánchez said he wanted to focus on rebuilding intra-European supply chains to avoid shortages and ensure energy sovereignty. This would include establishing European dominance in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital security.

Spain also hopes that the EU-Latin America summit scheduled for July 17-18 in Brussels, the first in eight years, will represent “a qualitative leap” in relations between the two regions and lead to a powerful investment program with Latin America and the Caribbean. nations.

Spain also wants to push the EU forward on green transition and electricity market reform. Spain has significant experience in the sector as it is advancing with solar, wind and green hydrogen installations at an unprecedented rate.

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