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EU's eastern members push for firmer accession promise to Ukraine

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By Reuters
EU's eastern members push for firmer accession promise to Ukraine
EU's eastern members push for firmer accession promise to Ukraine   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

VERSAILLES, France – European Union leaders from some eastern members states called on Friday for a firmer promise that Ukraine will one day join the bloc, exposing fractures in its united front against Russia’s invasion.

As EU countries slapped sanctions on Russia and rallied support for Ukraine, Kyiv requested last month accelerated accession to the European Union, a complicated process that usually take years.

In response, EU leaders meeting early Friday morning at France’s Versailles chateau asked the European Commission to give its opinion on the request, saying in a joint declaration that “Ukraine belongs to our European family”.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, one of Kyiv’s most fervent backers during the crisis, said that he would have preferred stronger wording.

“I wish Ukraine gets the candidate status now… it was not possible today, but we will come back to this issue,” Nauseda told journalists as he arrived for a second day of talks focused on the economic fallout from the Ukraine crisis in EU countries.

Candidate status is usually granted only once the European Commission issues an opinion, which in the past has taken on average 15-18 months, and when EU governments have given unanimous support.

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa said that a large majority of EU leaders were in favour of sending a strong message to Ukraine that it would be granted membership eventually, and that more support would come with time.

“We are not there yet, I think we have to wait for the next summit where we will come to this because the situation on the ground will persuade us,” Jansa said.

Even after EU governments give the green light to a country getting candidate status, accession only comes after the country brings its laws into line with EU laws, which can take years and require lengthy technical negotiations.

“There’s an accession process and it has to be respected,” European Council President Charles Michel said.