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EU dashes Ukraine’s hopes for quick membership

EU dashes Ukraine's hopes for quick membership
  • EU leaders meet in Versailles on response to war
  • Focus on weaning the bloc off Russian energy and economic response
  • Dutch PM: There is no fast track to EU membership

VERSAILES, France (Reuters) – European Union leaders on Thursday condemned Russia’s “unspeakable suffering” in Ukraine but at a summit in France rejected Kyiv’s call for speedy membership and disagreed over the reach of sanctions against Ukraine. Moscow.

The Russian invasion – the largest attack on a European country since World War II – has upended Europe’s security order and prompted EU capitals to rethink what the union, its economic, defense and energy policies should represent.

The European Union was quick to impose sweeping sanctions and provide Ukraine with political and humanitarian support, as well as some arms supplies, in the days following Russia’s February 24 attack.

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However, cracks appeared in the bloc’s united front, from its reaction to Kyiv’s demand for accelerated membership in the wealthy club to how quickly it could wean itself off Russian fossil fuels and how best to mount an economic response.

“No one entered the European Union overnight,” said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic as talks between the 27 national leaders ended in the early hours of Friday morning.

“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” Chief of Leaders Charles Michel said in a show of sympathy and moral support.

But others have made clear that Ukraine will not be allowed to join in a hurry, something Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought and has some support from Ukraine’s neighbors on the EU’s eastern side.

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“There is no fast-track process,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a prominent opponent of EU enlargement, said, adding that the bloc would continue to deepen ties with Kyiv.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the door to accession could not be closed.

“Can we open membership proceedings with a country at war? I don’t think so. Can we close the door and say, ‘Never’? That would be unfair. Can we forget the equilibrium points in that region? Caution.”

Joining the EU is a process that usually takes years and requires meeting strict criteria, from economic stability to rooting out corruption to respecting liberal human rights.

Russian oil and gas

The Russian invasion, which Moscow describes as a special military operation, destabilized the postwar security system in Europe that emerged from the ashes of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

More than two million people fled the country, thousands of civilians were killed, and many Ukrainian cities were besieged by the forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read more

Roberta Mezzola, president of the European Parliament, told the leaders it was a war crime.

Some European Union leaders have called for tougher sanctions that would harm Russia’s oil and gas industries, even if it means repercussions for those European countries that depend on Russian fossil fuels.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz, whose country shares a border with Russia, said cutting off Russian oil and gas would be the most effective way to bring Putin to the negotiating table.

“We have to go much further, much faster,” Karens said.

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German Chancellor Olaf Schulz did not comment on whether the bloc should ban Russian oil imports, which Berlin has so far ruled out. Russia supplies about a third of Germany’s oil and gas needs.

Von der Leyen said the EU should stop using Russian fossil fuels by 2027, adding that she would propose a roadmap for that in mid-May.

The leaders resumed at 0900 GMT on Friday to discuss policy to address defense and energy spending related to the war in Ukraine. Divisions emerged over the possibility of issuing new joint debt from the European Union, called for by countries such as France and Italy but opposed by Germany, the Netherlands and others. Read more

“The war in Ukraine is a huge shock … but it is certainly something that will lead us to completely redefine the structure of Europe,” Macron said.

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Additional reporting by Jan Strobchowski, Michelle Rose, Juliette Jabkeiro, Richard Love, Philip Blinkensop, Maren Strauss, Andreas Renck, Sabine Siebold and Benoit van Overstraiten; Written by Gabriela Bachinska and Richard Love; Editing by Gareth Jones and Rosalba O’Brien

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