“We support the immediate status of the candidate country.” With this sentence, French President Emmanuel Macron opened the European door wide for Ukraine. “There is still a long way to go, but that is certainly changing a lot,” says European policy professor Hendrik Voss (UGent).
I moved, so you can Visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi call it. The three European leaders were in Ukraine for the first time since the Russian invasion. They visited the devastated suburb of Irvine.
The visit that touched the three leaders was vividly demonstrated then at the press conference, when it came to Ukraine’s possible entry into the European Union. “We are all in favor of the status of the immediate candidate,” Macron said. The letter represented a major boost for Zelensky. He had been fighting for membership since the beginning of the invasion. “The Ukrainians have already earned the right to embark on this path,” Zelensky said. The president said Ukraine was now “ready” to work towards “full membership”.
“No member state will stand in the way and Ukraine will officially become a candidate member state,” says European expert Hendrik Vos. “Obviously there is still a long way to go. Negotiations will take place on the conditions that Ukraine has to meet. One of those things will be ‘peace’ and that means Ukraine will have to negotiate with Russia and make concessions as well.” However, this first step is already underway for Ukraine. “You can’t undo a statement like that. The ball is starting to roll now. Officially candidate countries receive financial support, among other things, to comply with European rules. And if a country remains willing to join during the process, this is not a process that goes on forever.”
The fact that it is precisely these countries – which in the past were wary of statements about invasion – now shows their support is important. In fact, they say unequivocally that they support Ukraine. No matter what Russia thinks about it.”
At the beginning of March, the European member states of Versailles agreed that Ukraine was “part of the European family”. But Ukraine was not satisfied with that. Next week, the 27 leaders will meet again in Brussels to decide Ukraine’s fate. Our country is often reluctant to take such decisions. From perspective: let’s tidy up the interior kitchen before we add more countries. Then we look at the problems with Hungary and Poland, for example. “And the Netherlands is not a big supporter either. But today’s statements have completely changed the dimensions. Belgium is in front of a fait accompli.”
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