EU leaders announce changes to Ukraine’s planned membership 

EU leaders met at a summit this week to discuss Ukraine’s appeal for fast accession to the bloc.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been a surge of support for Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, but the EU has stopped short of making any firm commitments. 

The leaders made it clear that a fast-track EU membership wouldn’t be possible. Despite being ready to open negotiations, leaders said Ukraine still needs to be closer to the bloc politically. 

In a joint statement, EU leaders “acknowledged the European aspirations and the European choice of Ukraine”, adding that Ukraine’s application for EU membership had been sent to the European Commission to be assessed.

They added, “Pending this and without delay, we will further strengthen our bonds and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine in pursuing its European path. Ukraine belongs to our European family”. 

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke at the summit about the “need to send a strong signal at this time to Ukraine and the Ukrainians”, whilst also remaining “vigilant”.

“Can we open an accession procedure today with a country at war? I don’t think so. Should we close the door and say never? That would be unfair. Can we forget about the balance of the region? We must be careful,” he had told reporters. 

Other EU countries, including the Netherlands, were strongly opposed to giving Ukraine a shortcut to the lengthy process of EU membership.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, “There is no such thing as a fast track. I want to focus on what can we do for Volodymyr Zelenskyy tonight, tomorrow, and EU accession of Ukraine is something for the long term, if at all. 

“Nobody entered the EU overnight,” Croatia Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic added, Croatia was the latest country to join the bloc, gaining membership in 2013.

The EU leader’s statement also noted that “We are committed to providing support for the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine once the Russian onslaught has ceased. We are determined to increase even further our pressure on Russia and Belarus. We have adopted significant sanctions and remain ready to move quickly with further sanctions.”

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