Macron, Schulz and Draghi support Ukraine’s candidacy to join the European Union in Kyiv visit

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

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged support after they traveled by train at night to Kyiv. They were accompanied by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is also visiting Kyiv to meet with Zelensky.

“We are at a turning point in our history,” Draghi said, describing the visit as “a definitive affirmation of our support.”

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

The announcement comes a day before the European Union’s executive body is expected to recommend granting Ukraine candidate status.

US sends $1 billion in military aid to boost Ukraine fight

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

Zelensky said a full membership would do “Prove that the words that speak of the Ukrainian people’s yearning to be part of the European family are not just words.”

While support from Germany, France, Italy and the Commission will add momentum to Ukraine’s membership application, all 27 member states will still need to agree – and EU diplomats anticipate significant controversy and division.

Even after candidate status is granted, the process takes years. The entire body of laws for a potential member must be selected and brought into line with the criteria set in Brussels.

Macron recently warned that it could take “decades” before Ukraine becomes a full member.

Prior to their meeting with Zelensky, European leaders visited the suburb of Irpen, the region that bore the brunt of the failed Russian efforts to encircle and capture the capital.

The visit comes at a pivotal time on Earth. Zelensky also warned that Ukraine was suffering “painful losses” in the eastern Donbass region, and urged Europe to provide more military support.

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

But Europe is under pressure to do more. Germany, in particular, is under fire for its slowdown in arms shipments. Berlin has not yet delivered any heavy weapons to Ukraine, despite its promises to do so Almost two months ago.

The German Defense Ministry has stated that 15 Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled guns will be delivered in July, while the Panzerhaubitze 2000 guns will be sent “soon”.

Schultz’s visit comes after months of mounting pressure to do so. He initially said he would not go after Ukraine German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier denied the invitation. Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin Andrei Melnik described it as “Liver sausage is badfor refusing to go.

He also said he didn’t want to visit simply for a photo opportunity – raising expectations with an announcement during the trip.

The German news agency reported that the three leaders “want to show their support for Ukraine and the citizens of Ukraine.” “But we not only want to show solidarity, we also want to make sure that the assistance we organize – financial and humanitarian, but also when it comes to weapons – will continue,” he said.

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

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

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

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While many EU officials, lawmakers and leaders have lobbied in recent weeks to speed up Kyiv’s bid, others have tried to temper Ukraine’s expectations, arguing that Ukraine is not ready for membership and that other countries are leading the way. The way forward, Ukraine can begin a long process of joining quickly, but the way forward will be long.

Among EU leaders, Draghi has been a particularly vocal supporter of Ukraine’s EU membership ambitions, at a time when the idea of ​​granting Kyiv candidate status appears to be gaining momentum. Two weeks ago, Draghi said the idea was opposed by “almost” all major European countries, “except Italy”.

“I support Ukraine to become a member of the European Union, and I have done so from the beginning,” Draghi said at that press conference. He also said that any ceasefire should take place only “on terms that Ukraine considers acceptable.”

But France and Germany have played down expectations of a speedy accession process. Macron previously suggested, meanwhile, that Ukraine should join a separate “European political community” widely seen as a mid-way action.

Macron was a major supporter of European Union sanctions against Russia after it invaded in February. But the French president, who visited Moscow in a last-ditch effort to prevent war and sought a senior diplomatic role by portraying himself as a natural point of contact between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, has faced growing criticism over his efforts.

The Elysee presidential palace held an increasing number of Macron’s calls with Putin and Zelensky in the run-up to the invasion, but the pace of these exchanges has decreased significantly since then.

Macron’s critics claim that his often vague statements focus too much on helping Russia avoid humiliation in war and lack a public commitment to Ukraine’s complete battlefield victory.

“Nobody negotiated with Hitler,” the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in AprilAccording to Reuters. “Mr. President Macron, how many times have you negotiated with Putin, what have you achieved?” he added.

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

The Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin does not care if he offends his cause

Schulz has been similarly criticized. Instead of saying that Ukraine should win, he instead used the language that Russia should not win. Ukrainian officials fear that this apparent lack of support indicates that Europe is moving toward a negotiated settlement that would see Ukraine ceding its territory.

Speaking during his visit on Thursday, the German chancellor said that the sanctions imposed so far by the European Union on Moscow “contribute to the opportunity for Russia to abandon its plan and withdraw its forces, because that is the goal.”

Despite his gentle language, Macron insisted that France continue to support Ukraine both economically and with humanitarian aid. Macron also this week retracted criticism that he was not vocal enough supportive of Ukraine, arguing that “excessive talk” would not speed up the war timetable.

When – I hope – Ukraine will be victorious, and above all when the shooting stops, we must negotiate. He told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to Romania, where French forces are part of a multinational NATO force aimed at defending the eastern part of the alliance.

“I think we are at a moment when we need to send clear political signals – we Europeans, we in the EU – regarding Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, given the context in which they have been heroically resisting for several months,” Macron said in a comment that appeared to refer to a visit to Kyiv on Thursday.

French voters will cast their ballots in the last round of the country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday. Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential run-off in April, securing a second five-year term, but now faces a bolder and more unified left-wing opposition under Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Nowak reported from Paris and Ruhala from Brussels. Stefano Petrelli from Rome, Kate Brady from Berlin and David Stern from Kyiv contributed.

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