Negotiations for Ukraine to enter the European Union (EU) should start this year, said Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Monday.
Kyiv launched a bid to join the richest trading bloc in the world last year, following the Russian invasion.
There is enthusiasm for Ukrainian membership in some EU capitals, despite concerns it could take years, potentially decades.
“We hope that Ukraine will be able to start accession negotiations with the EU this year,” said Kallas.
However, she admitted it would be a “difficult process”, adding Ukraine must “fulfil 100% of the conditions” set by Brussels.
“I think you should take this opportunity, this window, to undertake tough reforms.”
To join the EU, a country must fulfil certain economic, political and social criteria, besides committing to democratic principles.
Plagued by deep structural issues – notably corruption – experts warn it could take Ukraine many years to get ready.
Kallas spoke alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a visit to Zhytomyr in western Ukraine. He described their talks as “very fruitful”.
Estonia is a staunch supporter of Ukraine against Moscow, providing military and financial aid, as well as hosting more than 40,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Talks between the two leaders focused on “weapons, ammunition and [military] training”, according to Kallas, who was visiting Ukraine for the first time since her party’s landslide election victory last month.
She urged other European countries to show “determination” and “speed” in supplying arms to Kyiv as it gears up for a possible spring counter-offensive.
In March, Ukraine said it had implemented reforms demanded by Brussels, especially in combating the endemic evil of corruption.
Kyiv was granted candidate status in June 2022, four months after Russian tanks rolled across the border.