European Commission officials have been warned not to wear military green or khaki like Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to war-torn Ukraine.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the Commission, and most of her commissioners will be in Kyiv on Thursday in a show of support ahead of the EU-Ukraine summit in the capital on Friday.
Ahead of the visit, the EU executive sent out guidance on the dress code, which called for “normal business attire” and ruled out “green, khaki or too bright colours”.
The memo also recommended that visitors travel light with a backpack rather than a suitcase, the website Politico reported.
He also warned the college of commissioners to brace themselves for less gourmet food than is used in Brussels.
“Cold food boxes are distributed on the train, but be prepared for basic supplies,” he said.
President Zelensky’s choice of military style helped make him an international icon. Boris Johnson sold the President’s fleece jackets for £90,000 at an auction to raise money for Ukraine.
It is thought that the Commission, which has not made any comment, decided to reserve that search for the Ukrainians during the visit.
The messages may have been motivated by a desire to send arms and support to Ukraine but not to give the impression that the EU is ready to fight alongside it in a war with Russia.
A relaxation of EU bureaucrats’ neutral “uniform”, which it applied for after Russia invaded, could hurt Ukraine’s hopes of quick entry to the bloc.
The commission will have to demand tough reforms and tough technical work in the years it is expected to accept Kyiv’s involvement in it and the vague sobriety of a suitable civil servant could be a nod to that.
During the visit on Thursday, Mrs von der Leyen praised Ukraine’s efforts to end corruption, a key requirement to join the EU.
“I am glad to see that your anti-corruption bodies are alert and effective in detecting cases of corruption,” she said at a press conference with Mr. Zelensky.
“I also commend you for reacting so quickly at the political level to ensure that the fight against corruption has tangible results and that it is scaled up,” she said.
At a joint press conference, Mr Zelensky warned that Russia was building up its troops to “take revenge” on the West almost a year into Moscow’s invasion.
“Now Russia is concentrating its forces. We all know that. He is preparing to try to take revenge, not only against Ukraine but against free Europe and the free world,” Zelensky said.
Mrs von der Leyen, who is on her fourth visit to Ukraine, dressed in Ukrainian colors for her annual state of the union address last year to show the EU’s support for the embattled nation.
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, chose to dress informally in jeans and a gilet when he met Mr Zelensky in April last year.
Emmanuel Macron, who wore the suit when he visited Kyiv, drew accusations that he was copying the Ukrainian president after he was photographed wearing a Zelensky-style hoodie paired with jeans and a bunny in March.