EU unity must not be compromised for Ukrainian candidate status, says French official

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a special meeting of the European Council at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium May 30, 2022. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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  • The European Commission will publish an opinion on candidate status on June 17
  • Divisions between European states
  • Ukraine wants a legal commitment, not a political promise

PARIS, June 10 (Reuters) – The decision to grant Ukraine EU candidate status must be taken without weakening the bloc and ensuring that Kyiv does not remain in limbo for years, has said a French presidential official on Friday.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, will give its opinion on Ukraine’s bid on June 17, with the bloc’s heads of state due to discuss it at a summit a week later. Even if approved, the process to become a full member takes several years and can be vetoed by any member state.

However, there are divisions within the 27-member bloc over granting candidate status. Some eastern member states now want a firm promise to send a strong signal to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, while others, including the Netherlands and Denmark, are less receptive. The two bloc powers, France and Germany, also expressed reservations.

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“We know that there are different sensitivities on the subject within the European Union,” the French presidential source told reporters.

“We will be attentive to the unity of the European Council. We also believe that the European Union must emerge stronger from this crisis in Ukraine and must not emerge from it weakened.”

Three EU diplomats said the most likely scenario was that the Commission, which will also make recommendations for Moldova and Georgia, would give the go-ahead, possibly with conditions.

The heads of state would then in all likelihood find a “formula” which would abstain for the moment from granting Ukraine candidate status, the diplomats said.

“The philosophy has changed now. No one is saying clearly no, but lukewarm states want to postpone as much as possible,” said a European diplomat.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a conference in Denmark on Friday that grand declarations that Ukraine is part of the European family should be followed by action.

“Our position is clear: Ukraine needs a legal commitment, not a political promise. Hesitation is costing my country too much,” Olga Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for Integration, said on Twitter. European Union, following a meeting with the Commission on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested last month creating a “European political community” that would create a new structure, allowing for closer cooperation with countries aspiring to EU membership. This move has angered Ukraine and some Eastern and Baltic states, which see it as an attempt to push membership forward.

“The response to Ukraine’s needs is not in a statute, it is in policies and in the demonstration of our solidarity,” the French official said. “The worst (thing to do) would be basically if we gave Ukraine a status and 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years (later) and if I take the case of Turkey, almost 60 years later, we find that in fact, nothing happened.”

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Reporting by John Irish, editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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