Russia's war in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint press conference with the president of the European Commission during her visit to Kyiv on February 2. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he reached “important mutual understandings” with the president of the European Commission regarding Ukraine’s bid for accession into the European Union.

Zelensky said he had productive talks with the commission leader, Ursula von der Leyen, and members of the College of the European Commission Thursday. 

The talks showed that all parties understood “the fact that Ukraine needs constant and full support in defense against Russia,” the Ukrainian president said in his evening address Thursday.

“And about the fact that our further integration should give energy and motivation to our people to fight despite any obstacles and threats. I believe that Ukraine deserves to start negotiations on EU membership already this year,” he added.

Zelensky thanked von der Leyen and her colleagues in the EU for the military, financial and social support of Ukraine “on the path of integration.”

Kyiv will host the 24th EU-Ukraine summit Friday. European leaders plan to discuss financial and military support for the Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression.

More background: The European Commission is the EU’s executive arm, made up of one leader from each member state, which is responsible for proposing and enforcing legislation.

Leaders of the 27 EU member states have given Ukraine candidate status, starting the process for formally considering granting the country membership.

It is still likely to be years before Ukraine is able to join the EU. The process is lengthy and requires agreement from all the member states at almost every stage. This means that there are multiple opportunities for member states to use their veto as a political bargaining chip. The average time it takes to join the EU is just under five years, according to the think tank UK in a Changing Europe. However, some member states in eastern Europe have had to wait as long as 10 years. 

Zelensky has said his government is working on new reforms that will make Ukraine “more human, transparent and effective” as he prepares for further talks on the country’s possible addition to the bloc. That includes a push to tackle corruption.

A spokesperson for the commission said last month that anti-corruption measures are “an important dimension of the EU accession process.”

CNN’s Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.