EU leaders won't make exceptions for Ukraine membership

World Saturday 12/March/2022 16:50 PM
By: DW
EU leaders won't make exceptions for Ukraine membership

The heads of all 27 EU states pledged to strengthen their ties with Kyiv and "support Ukraine in pursuing its European path" following a two-day summit in Versailles, France.

In a joint statement, the EU leaders also said that "Ukraine belongs to the European family."

However, they rejected the plea by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to quickly accept Ukraine into the EU as the war with Russia continues. The accession process normally takes years or even decades, with the candidate nation required to meet a number of EU-set criteria.

The host of the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, said the bloc would not make exceptions for Ukraine.

"Could we have exceptional measures for a country that is at war without respecting the criteria [for joining the EU]? The answer is no," he said after the summit finished on Friday.

His comments echoed those made by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who previously said there was "no such thing as a fast-tracking of accession — that doesn't exist." German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was also against the idea, pointing instead to the association agreement that the EU made with Kyiv in 2017 as a way to deepen ties.

"It is very important that we continue to pursue the things we have decided in the past — this is the course we must follow," Scholz said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen struck a more positive note, saying Ukrainians were exercising "their right to choose their own destiny" by starting the process to join the EU.

"Today we have opened the pathway towards us for Ukraine," she said.

EU raises Ukraine military aid to €1 billion

While shying away from fast-tracking Ukraine into the bloc, the EU leaders said they would redouble their military aid, pledging another €500 million ($550 million) in military assistance to the Kyiv government. These funds come on top of €500 million earmarked last week — the first time the EU has bought weapons for a non-member country under attack.

"Russia's war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history," the leaders said in a statement.

They also pledged to build up the bloc's defense capabilities in addition to US-led NATO, to reduce the EU's energy dependency on Russia and to build up the bloc's economic base in various areas, including raw materials, food and digital technologies.

Macron: 'Nothing is taboo' on sanctions

The EU unveiled yet another wave of punitive measures against Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Macron said nothing was "off the table, nothing is taboo" when it comes to sanctions, and that tougher steps might follow.

If the Russian president "intensifies the bombing, lays siege to Kyiv and intensifies the scenes of war, we know that we will have to take massive sanctions again," Macron told reporters.

Meanwhile, Scholz said the EU sanctions had already had "dramatic consequences" for the Russian economy, while arguing that stopping Russian oil and gas imports was not tenable for several EU members.

The US, Canada and the UK, all oil producers in their own right, have taken similar steps, and Ukraine had urged the EU to follow suit. Instead, the bloc is pledging to drastically reduce its reliance on Russian imports over the next few years.