EU dampens Ukraine plea for 'immediate' membership
Ukraine hopes that joining the EU would help it militarily, financially, and politically in the face of Russia.
The EU shot down a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for "immediate" EU membership for his country.
Ukraine's hopes that joining the European Union would help it in the face of Russia and speed up military, financial, and political support were dashed when EU experts pointed out that the adherence procedure takes years.
Several officials walked back a comment by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen that appeared to hold out the prospect of Ukraine being admitted.
"They are one of us and we want them in," she told Euronews in an interview on Sunday, after emphasizing existing EU-Ukraine cooperation.
Zelensky seized upon that on Monday to appeal to the European Union "for the immediate accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure".
"Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I'm sure it's fair. I'm sure it's possible."
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal tweeted that "the time to put it down on paper has come. Ukraine is applying for EU membership under a special procedure." However no such fast-track procedure exists, officials said.
Aspirants to join the EU often face a lengthy and complicated procedure that often necessitates significant adjustments to meet EU criteria. They must also demonstrate that their finances are on track to allow them to join the eurozone.
Any quest for membership might take "a lot of years," according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
It is worth mentioning that Zelensky's dreams of joining the NATO alliance and joint defense guarantees against the impending "Russian invasion" seemed to evaporate into thin air as soon as Moscow launched its special military operation in Donbass.
On his Telegram channel, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a video addressing Ukraine, saying "We ended up defending our country alone. Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone."
In any event, the European Commission stated that it can only negotiate with potential candidate countries if it has acquired a mandate from the EU's 27 member states, which Ukraine has not received.
"At the end of the day, this is a debate at the highest political level, for the (European) Council," where the member states take decisions, said a commission spokeswoman, Ana Pisonero.
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, revealed to a group of journalists that there were already longstanding disagreements among EU countries on enlarging the bloc.
"There are different opinions and sensitivities within the EU on enlargement," he told a group of journalists.
He mentioned that Kiev would have to submit an official request to join before member states -- which would have to greenlight membership unanimously -- could come up with a position.
According to Zelensky's Telegram channel, the Ukrainian President signed such a request on Monday.