Germany, France and Italy back EU candidate status for Ukraine – POLITICO

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The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania spoke on Thursday in favor of accepting Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for EU membership, dispelling doubts about their position in the midst of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“All four of us support immediate candidate status for membership,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at a joint press conference in Kyiv, where the leaders had traveled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr. Zelenskyy. He spoke alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Scholz made a similar conclusion: “Germany is in favor of a positive decision in favor of Ukraine. This also applies to the Republic of Moldova,” the Chancellor said. “Ukraine belongs to the European family,” he added.

Scholz’s statement was particularly noteworthy since the Chancellor had been more reluctant to endorse a path to membership for Ukraine or Moldova in previous comments.

It was clear, however, that certain conditions would be attached to applying for membership.

Scholz stressed that EU enlargement “is subject to clear criteria which must be met by all applicants”, citing “in particular democracy and the rule of law”. But he added that while the candidates for membership needed to reform, there was an equal need for modernization on the EU side. “The EU needs to prepare and modernize its structures and procedures,” he said, referring to issues such as the unanimity requirement on important decisions such as foreign policy, which has hampered ability of the bloc to act and decide quickly.

Leaders visit Irpin, Kyiv’s thorny wartime suburb | Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung via Getty Images

The EU is likely to demand strict requirements for democratic and institutional reforms, such as the fight against corruption, as part of the EU enlargement process. Ukraine will also likely first have to reach a peace deal with Russia before talks with the EU can begin.

The European Commission is expected to officially recommend granting Ukraine and Moldova membership bids on Friday, but it is up to EU countries to make a final decision. EU leaders will meet in Brussels next week, Thursday and Friday, to discuss the issue.

Earlier in the day, European leaders visited Irpin, the northwestern suburb of Kyiv where Russian invaders destroyed buildings and allegedly tortured and killed civilians during weeks of occupation before Ukrainian forces hunt them.

They discussed the reconstruction of the city with Oleksiy Chernyshov, the Ukrainian Minister of Territorial Development. Stopping in front of a building covered in graffiti that read ‘Make Europe not war’, Macron said: ‘It’s very moving to see this’. “We will rebuild everything,” Draghi added, speaking to the press during the visit.

In Irpin, Macron also said: “It is both a heroic city because it is here, among other things, that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army which was descending on Kyiv, so you have to imagine the heroism of the army but also of the Ukrainians.

Scholz added that Irpin is an example of “the brutality of Russian aggression war, which is simply aimed at destroying and conquering” and an ongoing invasion that continues “without regard for human life”.

A French diplomatic official told reporters that once Russia’s war is over, “a dialogue” between Moscow and Kyiv “will be needed to find out how we build a lasting peace”, with security guarantees for Ukraine, and the nature of the relationship between Ukraine and NATO.

This article has been updated.

Chris Miller reported from Kyiv.


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