VERSAILLES, FRANCE (AP) – European Union leaders meeting in France on Thursday ruled out fulfilling Ukraine’s demand for a fast-track integration with the bloc, as they discussed ways to help the country that’s been invaded by Russia.
EU nations have been fully united in backing Ukraine’s resistance, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia over the past two weeks.
But leaders are divided on how fast Brussels could move to accept Ukraine as a member, and how swiftly the 27-nation bloc could sever energy ties with Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for his country to be granted urgent EU membership as a proof of support from his EU partners. An agreement on that point, however, won’t be achieved during the two-day summit hosted in the palace of Versailles west of Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in 2017.
After nine hours of crisis talks, heads of states and government ended the first day of discussions with an agreement on language acknowledging Ukraine’s “European aspirations”, but they stopped short of going further into the process.
“It was an opportunity to show unwavering, firm support for Ukraine, that is, to be committed financially, materially,” said EU Council President Charles Michel. “It is clear that Ukraine is a member of the European family and we want to support all efforts to strengthen and consolidate the ties with Ukraine.”
For now, Ukraine only has an “Association Agreement” with the EU, which is aimed at opening Ukraine’s markets and bringing it closer to Europe. It includes a far-reaching free trade pact and helps to modernise Ukraine’s economy.
The Ukrainian fast-track bid has received warm support in Eastern European countries, but EU officials have stressed the process could take years, with unanimity among current members required to allow a newcomer in the club.