EU row breaks out over leaks of Zelensky’s reported Brussels trip
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A row among European Union officials has broken out over the leaking of a proposed visit to Brussels by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week. European Council president, Charles Michel, is reportedly holding the European Parliament responsible for publishing the sensitive information, which was originally leaked by the Italian media before being endorsed by officials. Mr Zelensky is only able to travel in secret and with a heavy security presence since there are serious concerns that he will be the target of Russian strikes. It is not known whether the President will now travel to Brussels.
Mr Zelensky was allegedly planning a trip to Brussels this Thursday to meet European Union leaders in person at a summit.
He was also planning on addressing the European parliament. It would be only the second known time that he has addressed politicians in person after he delivered a speech to the US Congress in December.
Last Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel visited Kyiv and held talks with Mr Zelensky.
But the prospect of a meeting this week appears to have been made more difficult after European politicians, under the leadership of the president of the European parliament, Roberta Metsola, published the proposed visit on social media.
When Mr Zelensky visited the US, his trip was not publicly advertised by any officials, though it was rumoured by the local media the night prior to his arrival.
A spokesperson for Mr Michel, who organises EU summits, said this week only that an “open invitation” had been given to Mr Zelensky to come and visit Brussels.
The Ukrainian President also sidestepped questions concerning his potential address, saying “there are big risks if I go somewhere”.
Two days before the potential trip to Brussels this week, Italian media then suggested Mr Zelensky would address the European parliament on Thursday.
While speculative media reports do not necessarily preclude a visit, the news was endorsed and later announced by the European People’s Party (EPP), the centre-right group of MEPs.
In a post that was swiftly deleted, though it was screenshot by Politico, they put out a statement that read: “We look forward to welcoming you in Brussels, Mr President.”
A row over the leaked messages has since ensued, although not publicly, with the argument causing embarrassment for the European parliament president, Ms Metsola, who is also a member of the EPP group.
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The row reveals how rival EU institutions are jostling to show solidarity with Ukraine and demonstrate their support for Mr Zelensky.
It comes as there is debate among senior officials over how rapidly to accede Ukraine into the European Union.
EU diplomats have said Mr Michel and Ms von der Leyen are vying to show support for Ukraine by speaking in glowing terms about Ukraine’s prospects of joining the union.
But other member states argue the EU leaders should tone down their public rhetoric to avoid raising hopes, since issues such as alleged corruption within the Ukrainian government could prevent a rapid accession.
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