Ukraine is “nowhere near” the standards required for candidate status for membership in the European Union, a senior EU diplomat said just hours ahead of an informal leaders’ summit in Versailles, France, news agency MIA writes.
The diplomat said that the EU wants to “show sympathy” for the Ukrainian people, but pushed back hard on any suggestion that EU leaders could agree to grant the country candidate status at the summit.
The bloc’s 27 heads of state are coming together after a frantic two weeks of supplying arms, sheltering nearly 2 million people and signing off on three rounds of massive sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
The first day of the two-day event is to focus on bolstering the bloc against the economic and humanitarian impacts of the war in Ukraine and how to wean the bloc off Russian energy imports, which currently account for more than 40% of its overall consumption. Plans published by the European Commission on Tuesday outlined the bloc’s shift away from Russian gas before 2030.
Moscow’s repeated threats to suspend gas supplies have injected urgency into the discussions. Some EU member states are pushing for new rules to allow more borrowing to tackle high energy prices during this transition but are meeting resistance. Greece and Spain are also calling for an overhaul of the EU’s energy market to address prices.
The same EU diplomat urged member states to use special EU funds agreed in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic to address the energy price increases rather than introducing new measures. More sanctions on Russia will be discussed at the summit, but talks should focus on closing any loopholes to strengthen the measures already in force, the EU diplomat said. Further measures to support EU member states near Ukraine hosting hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war are also to be addressed.
The EU diplomat’s comments on Ukraine’s membership application, on top of a draft statement seen by dpa, look set to dash any hopes for a quick entry into the EU after the Russian invasion. “Ukraine belongs in the European family,” the draft says, with no calls to take the application further, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s push for fast-tracked entry.
Zelensky urged the EU to expedite Kiev’s membership bid in light of the Russian invasion of his country.
“Prove that you are with us,” Zelensky told a special sitting of the European Parliament last week. Membership of the bloc tends to be a lengthy, technical and politically fraught process, during which countries have to align with EU rules and values. Calls for EU member states to invest more in defence spending are also included in the draft statement. The move comes after the bloc provided €450 million ($497 million) in arms to Ukraine, a historic EU first to arm a non-EU country in a conflict.