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Sánchez visits Kyiv on the day Spain starts EU presidency to underline bloc’s support for Ukraine

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MADRID, July 1 (AP): Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez started Spain’s six-month presidency of the European Union with a lightning visit to Kyiv on Saturday to underline the bloc’s support of Ukraine in the face of the invasion by Russia.

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Sánchez arrived in the Ukrainian capital by train from Poland.

The Spanish government said he would address Ukraine’s parliament at 0830 GMT (4:30 a.m. EDT) and then meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The two will give a news conference around 1030 GMT (6:30 a.m. EDT).

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

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

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This was Sánchez’s third time in Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Sánchez will return to Madrid by Sunday, when he meets with the 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 Dec. 31.

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

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

EU lawmakers have warned that this may be the last chance to solve the issue before EU-wide elections in a year’s time, when migration is likely to be a hot-button issue once again.

The rotating presidency comes as Spain faces an early general election on July 23, which polls shows could oust Sánchez’s leftist coalition government and replace it with a conservative administration, or even a coalition with the extreme right, and follow a trend happening in much of Europe.

Sánchez has said that he wants to focus on rebuilding intra-European supply chains to avoid shortages and guarantee energy sovereignty. This would include establishing European dominance in the fields of artificial intelligence and digital security.

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

Spain also wants to make EU progress on the green transition and electricity market reform. Spain has significant experience in the sector as it forges ahead with solar, wind power and green hydrogen installations at an unprecedented rate.

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