BRUSSELS — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was meeting the European Union’s 27 heads of government in Brussels on Thursday, capping a two-day tour of key European allies as he framed Russia’s invasion as an existential struggle for the continent.
Mr. Zelensky’s first stop on Thursday was at the European Parliament, where he was welcomed with enthusiastic applause. The Ukrainian leader, making only his second trip outside of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last year, was visibly moved when the Ukrainian national anthem played, holding his hand over his heart.
In an address to E.U. leaders at a summit expected to go into late afternoon, Mr. Zelensky called for continuous support for Kyiv, part of his ongoing effort to keep aid coming as the war is poised to grind into its second year. On Wednesday, he made a surprise visit to London and then traveled to Paris, holding talks with the British, French and German leaders.
“We are all protecting Europe against the regime, which wants to destroy the freedom of Europe,” he said, referring to Russia.
He acknowledged Europe’s efforts to support Kyiv, including through sanctions on Russia, military aid and by weaning itself off Moscow’s energy supply, but called for more. “The fundamental steps have been taken,” he said. “But the road is long.”
The Ukrainian leader has been pushing for accelerated E.U. membership for his country. But E.U. leaders visiting him in Kyiv earlier this month delivered the delicate message that Ukraine would not be fast-tracked into the bloc. Joining the E.U. normally takes aspiring members more than a decade of work to comply with European governing standards.
After focusing on military aid in London and Paris on Wednesday, in Brussels Mr. Zelensky was more intent on politics and diplomacy. And that, according to E.U. officials and diplomats who briefed reporters ahead of Mr. Zelensky’s visit, meant that the summit was not likely to give him anything concrete to take home.
The E.U. officials also expected to discuss the question of how Ukraine would manage billions of dollars of aid from the European Union, both for its current operations and for its future reconstruction. The country’s poor track record with corruption is a constant concern for European policymakers, and Mr. Zelensky has in recent weeks made considerable efforts to clean up part of the administration and illustrate his commitment to improving the nation’s governance.
Another issue likely to be on the leaders’ agenda is the effort to seize the European assets of sanctioned Russian entities or the Russian state, and use them to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction. While a popular idea, the European laws involved in seizing assets belonging to sanctioned foreign individuals or governments are extremely complex, to the point of potentially making the process unfeasible, according to many E.U. legal experts.