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Home World News Washington Post World News France, Germany and Italy support Ukraine’s EU candidacy during first war trip...

France, Germany and Italy support Ukraine’s EU candidacy during first war trip to Kiev

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BERLIN — Leaders of the European Union’s three largest economies said on Thursday they support Ukraine’s candidacy to join the 27-member bloc, a move President Volodymyr Zelensky has vehemently advocated as his country loses ground in the face of the Russian invasion.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged support after traveling by night train to Kiev. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is also visiting Kiev to meet Zelensky, accompanied them.

“We are at a turning point in our history,” Draghi said, calling the visit “an unequivocal confirmation of our support.”

“Every day, the Ukrainian people defend the values ​​of democracy and freedom that are the pillars of the European project, of our project,” he said.

The announcement comes a day before the European Union executive is expected to recommend that Ukraine be granted candidate status.

US sends $1 billion in military aid to strengthen Ukrainian struggle

Since Russia launched its large-scale invasion, Zelensky has argued that Ukraine should be admitted to the 27-member bloc under a special expedited procedure. Senior Ukrainian officials have rejected the idea of ​​conditional membership, saying the starting point for any discussion is Ukraine’s legal status.

Full membership, Zelensky said, would “Proof that words about the Ukrainian people’s desire to be part of the European family are not just words.”

While support from Germany, France, Italy and the Commission will boost Ukraine’s accession request, all 27 member states will still need to agree – and EU diplomats expect significant debate and division.

Even once candidate status is awarded, the process typically takes years. The entire legislation of a candidate member must be taken over and brought into line with the standards set in Brussels.

Macron recently warned that it could take “dozens” of Ukraine to become a full member.

Before meeting Zelensky, European leaders visited the suburb of Irpin, an area most affected by Russia’s initial failed attempt to encircle and take the capital.

The visit arrives at a crucial moment. Zelensky has also warned that Ukraine is suffering “painful losses” in the eastern region of Donbas, and he has urged Europe to increase military support.

He has said that if defense aid is not significantly increased, the war risks turning into a bloody stalemate as Russian forces continue ground attacks on the strategic eastern city of Severodonetsk. President Biden responded on Wednesday to calls from Ukraine for more weapons with an additional $1 billion in security assistance to the country.

But Europe is under pressure to do more. Germany in particular is under fire because it continues to drag on with arms deliveries. Berlin has not yet supplied any heavy weapons to Ukraine, despite promising to do so almost two months ago.

Germany’s defense ministry has said 15 promised self-propelled Gepard anti-aircraft guns will be delivered in July, while Panzerhaubitze 2,000 howitzers will be shipped “soon”.

Scholz’s visit comes after months of mounting pressure to do so. He initially said he would not go after Ukraine ousted German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin Andrij Melnyk had called him an “offended liverwurst” for refusing to go.

He has also said he doesn’t feel like stopping by just for a photo opportunity, raising expectations for an announcement during the trip.

The three leaders “want to show their support for Ukraine and the citizens of Ukraine,” Scholz said on arrival in Kiev, Germany’s DPA news agency reported. “But we don’t just want to show solidarity, we also want to ensure that the aid we organize – financially and humanitarianly, but also when it comes to weapons – continues,” he said.

The German chancellor’s hesitant response to the war has raised questions about Germany’s commitment to Ukraine’s cause. “We need Chancellor Scholz to reassure us that Germany supports Ukraine,” Zelensky said in an interview with German ZDF television before the visit.

He called on the country to make a “decision” and stop balancing aid to Ukraine and maintaining relations with Russia.

The European Commission’s decision on Ukraine’s candidacy this week does not grant this status, but will be considered by member states when they meet next week to discuss the issue at a European Council summit in Brussels. An important question is whether the committee will decide to grant candidate status with conditions related to the rule of law or corruption – an idea that Ukraine has opposed but which some member states support because it would give Ukraine a morale boost. while addressing concerns about the country’s preparedness. †

While several EU officials, lawmakers and leaders have pushed in recent weeks to speed up Kiev’s bid, others have tried to temper Ukrainian expectations, arguing that Ukraine is not ready for membership and that other countries are leading the way. If the way forward, Ukraine could quickly embark on the long accession process, but the road ahead would be long.

Among EU leaders, Draghi has been a particularly vocal supporter of Ukraine’s aspirations to join the European Union, at a time when the idea of ​​granting Kiev candidate status appears to be gaining traction. Two weeks ago, Draghi said the idea was opposed by “almost all” major European countries, “with the exception of Italy”.

“I support Ukraine to join the European Union, and I have done so from the start,” Draghi said at that press conference. He has also said that a ceasefire should only take place on “conditions Ukraine deems acceptable”.

But France and Germany have tempered expectations of a rapid accession process. Macron has previously suggested that Ukraine should, in the meantime, join a separate “European political community” that is widely seen as an interim solution.

Macron was a major proponent of EU sanctions against Russia after the February invasion. But the French leader, who had visited Moscow in a last-ditch effort to prevent war and sought an important diplomatic role by portraying himself as a natural point of contact for Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, increasingly criticized his efforts.

Élysée’s presidential palace kept a rapidly growing number of Macron’s conversations with Putin and Zelensky in the run-up to the invasion, but the frequency of those exchanges has declined significantly since then.

Macron’s critics argue that his often ambiguous statements seemed to place an inordinate emphasis on helping Russia avoid humiliation in the war and lacked public commitment to an all-out Ukrainian victory on the battlefield.

“No one negotiated with Hitler,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in April, according to Reuters. “Mr. President Macron, how many times have you negotiated with Putin, what have you achieved?” he added.

Macron has consistently refused to repeat Biden’s strong condemnations of Putin, who has called the Russian leader a “war criminal”, a “murderer” and a “butcher”.

Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin doesn’t care if he insults for his cause

Scholz has received similar criticism. Instead of saying that Ukraine should be victorious, he has instead used wording that Russia should not win. Ukrainian officials fear that this lack of explicit support indicates that Europe is fishing for a negotiated settlement whereby Ukraine cedes territory.

During his visit on Thursday, the German chancellor said the sanctions the EU has imposed on Moscow so far “add to the chances that Russia will abandon its plan and withdraw its troops, because that is the goal.”

Despite his softer language, Macron has insisted that France continue to support Ukraine economically and with humanitarian aid. Macron also pushed back criticism this week that he did not support Ukraine vocally enough, arguing that “excessive talk” will not speed up the war timeline.

“When – as I hope – Ukraine will have won, and especially when the shooting has stopped, we will have to negotiate. The Ukrainian president and his leaders will have to negotiate with Russia,” he told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to Romania, where French troops are part of a multinational NATO force intended to defend the eastern part of the alliance.

“I think we are at a time when we need to send out clear political signals – we Europeans, we as the European Union – regarding Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, given the context they have been heroically resisting for months,” he said. . Macron said in a comment that appeared to refer to Thursday’s visit to Kiev.

French voters will vote on Sunday in the final round of the country’s parliamentary elections. Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election in April, securing a second five-year term, but now faces an emboldened and more united left-wing opposition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Noack reported from Paris, Rauhala from Brussels and Stern from Kiev, Ukraine. Stefano Pitrelli in Rome and Kate Brady in Berlin contributed to this report.

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