Ukraine’s hopes of quickly joining the EU are being rebuffed, ahead of a historic meeting in Kyiv.
An EU-Ukraine summit takes place on Friday, and top officials have begun arriving in the Ukrainian capital.
Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine had set what he called an “ambitious goal” of joining the EU in two years.
But a group of member states have warned it should be made clear to Kyiv that this will not be possible.
Last June Ukraine gained EU candidacy status at record speed, in what President Volodymyr Zelensky said was a unique and historic moment. While it is a first step to membership, the process typically takes many years and some countries are currently languishing in the queue.
Mr Zelensky said ahead of the summit that it would be a week of European integration, and Kyiv was expecting decisions from its EU partners in line with progress achieved despite the full-scale war with Russia.
However, few within Brussels see a two-year goal as a realistic aim, with concerns that the buoyant messaging from some senior figures within the EU could lead to disillusionment down the line.
“That’s not what Ukraine needs,” said one EU diplomat.
Another spoke of pressure, coming from countries such as Poland, to speed up the process.
“The slightest deviation from a more, more, more line is criticised as being on the wrong side of the war. Anything that smacks of criticism of Ukraine is almost considered as heresy or collaboration with the Russians.”
A draft EU statement, to be released after the summit, reiterates a pledge that Ukraine’s future lies within the EU and acknowledges “considerable efforts” made in recent months towards meeting objectives underpinning its candidate status and carrying out reforms.
But sources have told the BBC that part of the statement has been changed because it was too “forward leaning”. France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux nations are all said to have warned against striking an overly optimistic tone.
Would-be EU members are required to align with a large body or rules, laws and standards. Ukraine’s efforts at reform are being widely praised but there has been, as yet, no public EU assessment of progress.
A fresh wave of anti-corruption raids was carried out on Wednesday ahead of the summit, and officials released images of a raid on the house of one of the country’s richest men, Ihor Kolomoisky.
Mr Shmyhal said on Telegram that Ukraine planned to implement all seven of the European Commission’s recommendations, which involve further measures against corruption, tightening laws against money-laundering and the excessive influence of Ukraine’s wealthy oligarchs.
The aim of the summit is also for the EU to show solidarity with Ukraine, emphasising the historic nature of holding such a meeting in a warzone, and sending a political signal to Russia that support for Kyiv isn’t waning.
Announcements will include doubling the training mission for Ukrainian troops to 30,000 soldiers and €25m to help rid liberated territory of land mines.
An update on Ukraine’s progress towards membership is expected in the spring with a more formal assessment to follow later in the year.
Senior officials say Ukraine’s future membership is not in doubt but no one is willing to spell out an exact time-line.
“We will do it but there are no short-cuts,” said one diplomat.