Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he did not support Ukraine’s accession to the EU. At the same time, he noted that Europe should protect the “Western way of life” and further develop cooperation with Kyiv. Earlier, Reuters sources reported that EU members could not come to a consensus regarding Ukr-aine’s accession to the union.
Ukraine can be helped to get closer to the Western way of life “in a different way” than through full membership in the EU, the head of the Austrian Foreign Ministry believes.
“We need to develop a new model of cooperation,” Schallenberg said. He called for “greater flexibility” on the issue. The minister stressed. that it is possible to find ways of rapprochement with Ukraine beyond “full membership [in the EU], an association agreement and accession to the European Economic Area.
Schallenberg recalled the Western Balkans, which have traveled a long way to become an EU candidate. In his opinion, the Balkan countries also have the right to speak about joining the union.
At the same time, the head of the Austrian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the EU needs to further strengthen rapprochement with Ukraine. In his opinion, this is “undoubted”.
“We export our Western way of life,” Schallenberg explained. In his speech, he pointed out several times that it was about protecting the Western way of life with its fundamental rights and freedoms. Yes, the minister admitted, now on a global scale these rights are realized only in 25% of the UN countries. “But this is the best model we have,” the Austrian Foreign Minister stressed.
How Ukraine is moving closer to Europe
In 1994, the Council of the European Union adopted a Common Position on Ukraine. The development of close political relations with Ukraine and bringing Ukrainian-European cooperation to a new level were named as priority areas. In February 2019, then-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed into law a law that enshrined the country’s strategic course towards EU and NATO membership in the Constitution.
“I see my strategic mission in guaranteeing the irreversibility of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. No later than 2023 – apply for EU membership and receive a NATO membership action plan. This is our common task,” Poroshenko said at the time.
On February 28, a few days after the start of the Russian military special operation in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an application to join the European Union. “Ukraine, as a European country that respects the values contained in Part 2 of the EU Treaty, has the honor to apply for membership in the European Union,” the document said.
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that “Ukraine is one of us, and therefore everyone wants it to join the EU.” However, she did not specify how long this process could be.
The matter is complicated by the fact that the Ukrainian economy needs to be integrated into the European one. In addition, as French President Emmanuel Macron said, the EU should not give membership to a country that is “at war”.
In Ukraine, they hope to speed up the procedure due to the fact that Russia has launched a special operation. Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the President of Ukraine, said that Zelensky had signed an application for EU membership “under an accelerated procedure.” Zelensky himself, in his next video message, confirmed that he was asking the EU “for the immediate accession [of Ukraine] under a new special procedure.”
But the European Union, as before, is cautious with a specific assessment regarding the admission of Ukraine. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said that at present the issue of Ukraine’s accession is not on the agenda. In addition, the union has already explained that there is no accelerated procedure for accepting new members.
“No one entered the European Union overnight,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stressed following the summit of EU leaders. “There is no accelerated process,” echoed the head of the Dutch government, Mark Rutte.
French President Macron noted that “to close the door” to Ukraine and say “never” would be unfair.” The European Council, in connection with the application of Ukraine, promised that it would further develop cooperation.
“Without delay, we will further strengthen our ties and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine in its pursuit of the European path. Ukraine belongs to our European family,” summed up the European Council.
Reuters reported on March 10 that EU members disagreed about Ukraine’s possible membership, with some suggesting that it be granted candidate status, others not. Proponents of refusing Ukraine say that doing the opposite would cause problems with the other countries that applied, Moldova and Georgia. In addition, they emphasize that hostilities are underway in Ukraine, and its territorial integrity has been destroyed.
That said, even if Ukraine gets candidate status, accession talks, like Turkey’s, could go on “forever” after that, one unnamed EU official told Reuters.
In addition to the membership application, Zelensky completed a special questionnaire on April 17 about EU membership. Now the European Commission will have to decide whether Ukraine meets the criteria for membership.
On March 29, the head of the Russian delegation at the talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinsky, said that Russia was not against Ukraine’s accession to the EU, a similar opinion was expressed in the Kremlin. “The EU is not a military-political bloc, that is, in this regard <…> this topic lies on a different plane,” explained presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
At the same time, Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, noted that entry into the EU takes place only through NATO. “Therefore, the question is: how to join the EU without NATO membership? Without the consent of the senior partner and entry into the main… alliance. No answer. Today, it turns out, no way, ”Medvedev believes.