Zelensky handed over to the EU ambassador to Ukraine, Matti Maasikas, during a meeting in Kyiv, two dossiers that constitute that country's application for membership of the European body.

“Our people have been mentally in Europe for a long time. However, each country must follow this procedure,” said the Ukrainian head of state.

Normally, obtaining EU candidate status “takes years”, but Brussels “gave an opportunity to start this procedure within a few weeks or months”, he stressed.

“We are convinced that this procedure will start in the coming weeks”, he underlined in Kyiv, and he believes that this would be “an important signal” for relations between Kyiv and Brussels.

The official explained that "Ukrainians are united to achieve the goal of feeling equal to other Europeans, being part of the EU".

EU integration is a long-term process to bring candidate country legislation closer to European legislation.

This process requires complex negotiations on many issues and criteria that are difficult to meet for a country at war, such as political stability and a functioning market economy.

Eight countries, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, requested, in an open letter, the opening of discussions on the accession of Ukraine.

But a third of the Member States, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, have expressed more "reservations", a diplomatic source told AFP.