The European Union’s political leaders from Italy, German, and France were en route to Kyiv on Thursday morning to underscore Europe’s support for Ukraine.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron; Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz; and Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, set off for the Ukrainian capital on an overnight train on Wednesday.
This is the first trip featured by the heads of the EU’s three largest economies. Neither has visited Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February, with Scholz and Macron heavily criticised at home for not visiting the war-torn country earlier.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet the trio for discussions, with military assistance and Ukraine’s bid to join the EU topics likely high on the agenda.
“I think we are at a time when we, the European Union, need to send clear political signals to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in a context where they have been resisting heroically for several months,” said PM Macron while visiting a NATO base in Romania on Wednesday where some 500 French troops are deployed.
All three countries broadly favour Ukraine joining the bloc, albeit varying degrees.
A decision on whether the war-torn country can gain EU candidacy status is expected at a European summit on 23-24 June. If successful, this will start a negotiation process to become a bona fide member state, which may take several years.
He once more championed his idea to create a European political community that both countries could join as the process for membership, which can take years, is underway. He said could “provide short-term responses to security” and infrastructure issues.
“We can, we must define mutual security guarantees” to European countries, not in the EU, PM Macron also said.
The French leader is walking a bit of a diplomatic tightrope, having angered Kyiv and eastern EU member states with his calls not to “humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic channels.”
Kyiv retorted that such a comment “can only humiliate France and every country that would call for it” and that “we all better focus on how to put Russia in its place.”