Polish president calls for EU candidate status for Ukraine

Poland's president expressed hope on Thursday that Ukraine would shortly be granted EU candidate status, saying it was time "for the West to open its arms and accept" Ukraine.

Speaking at a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, President Andrzej Duda thanked the EC president for supporting Ukraine on its path towards EU candidate status.

"I believe Ukraine will get that status from European leaders, from those who sit on the European Council, soon," Duda said, adding that it was extremely important for the EU's society to show Ukrainians that they are with them in solidarity, "that we are not indifferent to their fight, that they are fighting to be a part of the western community," rather than being within the Russian sphere of influence.

He described the war in Ukraine as a clash with the East, saying Ukrainians were on the side of the West.

"It is time for the West to open its arms, time to accept them," Duda said. "I believe that is the next task that will be achieved."

Ursula von der Leyen thanked Poland for taking in over 3.5 million Ukrainian war refugees, and "opening their homes and hearts," which she described as a wonderful example to the whole world. History will not forget Poland's solidarity, she said.

She said the EU had paid out EUR 745 million to help Poland take care of Ukrainian refugees and that the EC had an additional fund of almost EUR 500 million available to that end.

Mateusz Morawiecki pointed out that the EU is also supporting Poland financially in terms of its supply of defensive arms to Ukraine. "There is a special budget, a provision, that has also been launched, and that is also hundreds of millions of euros, so significant funds," the prime minister said.

Von der Leyen went on to say Russia was using energy as a blackmail tool and that the European Commission would not accept this, which is why it had introduced the RePowerEU plan to move away from Russian hydrocarbons imports.

Von der Leyen welcomed a Thursday announcement from OPEC that they would increase oil deliveries, which she said would help the EU diversify away from Russian imports.

She said another important element of the plan was a large-scale investment in renewable energy, which was not only good for the climate but also energy security and independence. In this regard, she added that Poland was a part of the EU's future, a future in which wind power will play a major role.