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EU summit in Versailles rules out Ukraine’s quick accession

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The heads of state and government of the EU, meeting at a summit in Versailles, on Thursday ruled out any rapid accession of Ukraine to the European Union, while opening the door to closer ties. The leaders of the 27 met to work out the economic and military responses to the shock of the Russian invasion.

The heads of state and government of the EU, meeting at a summit in Versailles, on Thursday ruled out any rapid accession of Ukraine to the European Union, while opening the door to closer ties. The leaders of the 27 met to work out the economic and military responses to the shock of the Russian invasion. “Europe has changed under the impact of the pandemic, it will change faster and stronger under the impact of war”, predicted French President Emmanuel Macron, who received his guests in the prestigious setting of the ChΓ’teau de Versailles.

No membership procedure with a country at war

Campaigning for re-election, he currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. Regarding Ukraine’s accession, “there is no quick procedure”, recalled Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, while Kiev submitted an application in the hope of joining it “without delay”.

“Can we now open an accession procedure with a country at war? I don’t think so. Should we close the door and say never? It would be unfair”, summed up Emanuel Macron.

“Without delay, we will further strengthen our ties and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine on its European journey. Ukraine is part of our European family,” the leaders finally proclaimed in a written statement.

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa did not hide the divisions between those “who think that (…) Ukrainians are fighting for their lives and deserve a strong political message (…) and those who are still debating the procedures”. Central European countries, led by Poland, want to speed up the recognition of Ukraine’s candidacy.

The debates ended in the night, around 2:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. GMT), after a dinner in the Hall of Mirrors, where the treaty ending the First World War was signed. Emmanuel Macron sees in the current crisis the confirmation of the need for a more sovereign Europe.

This war will lead the 27 to take “historic decisions” to “completely redefine the architecture of our Europe”, he said, wishing in particular “decisions on energy” which will lead to proposals at the end of March at an upcoming summit. He also called for “decisions on defense” with “probably an exceptional Council” on this file in May.

The war started by Vladimir Putin has highlighted the lack of European military capabilities, the 27 member states having greatly reduced their budgets since the end of the Cold War.

Dependence on Russia

It also highlighted the extreme dependence of the EU on gas imported from Russia, which represents 40% of its consumption and limits its ability to act against Moscow. Even if it has adopted an unprecedented package of sanctions, Europe continues to finance Russia through its energy purchases, which it is unable to do without in the very short term.

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According to a draft of conclusions, the Twenty-Seven, which reaffirm the key role of NATO, will underline their desire to invest “more and better in military capabilities”, while a defense strategy must be published before the end of the month.

They will also examine the Commission’s plan to reduce dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds this year, but also to reduce imports of coal and oil from Russia, by diversifying suppliers and developing alternative energies such as renewables or hydrogen.

Support the purchasing power of families

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she would propose the goal of EU independence from Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

The strengthening of gas storage, but also “the optimization of the operation of the electricity market”, demanded by Spain and France, are also mentioned, as are new urgent measures intended to cushion the impact of the rising energy prices for consumers. The liter of gasoline at more than 2 euros raises fears of social revolts of the “yellow vests” type.

“We must support the purchasing power of families with the same speed as we responded to Russia’s action,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The second day of the summit on Friday will be devoted to discussions on strengthening the EU’s economic model, before a final press conference in the afternoon.

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