Macron, Scholz, Draghi visit Ukraine to meet with Zelensky
The three leaders of the top EU economies arrived in Kiev for the first time since the Russian special military operation in Ukraine began.
European leaders from France, Germany, and Italy traveled by train to Kiev Wednesday overnight and arrived on Thursday morning. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italy’s PM Mario Draghi sought to express and validate their support for Ukraine.
The three leaders of the top EU economies arrived in Kiev for the first time since the Russian special military operation in Ukraine began. Scholz and Macron, the leaders of the largest economies, have been criticized for not visiting Ukraine yet.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky will discuss with the three leaders sensitive topics including Ukraine’s bid to join the EU.
Earlier on Wednesday, Macron visited a NATO base in Romania where approximately 500 French troops are deployed. During his visit, the French President stated that “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.”
Despite their different perspectives, all three countries are in support of Ukraine joining the EU. A response to the candidacy of Ukraine to the EU is expected to unravel during the 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.
France's Europe minister, Clement Beaune, reportedly said Ukraine's EU membership was "15 or 20 years" away from being realized.
"We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you're lying," Beaune said, speaking to a local radio station. "It's probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time."
French President Emmanuel Macron had earlier voiced his aspiration to create a European political community to ensure Ukraine could join the 27-nation bloc later on. However, Zelensky dismissed the move, asking to join the European Union.
The European Commission's chief, Ursula von der Leyen, said Sunday that once the war in Ukraine is over, the EU will support Ukraine's efforts to rebuild.
Von der Leyen said in an interview on CNN that Kiev belonged in Europe, and the EU will support Ukraine's bid for membership, adding that its accession to the Union might be viewed as an extraordinary case.
Usually, it takes a country wishing to join the EU years in order to cross obstacles preventing its accession, von der Leyen admitted. She had traveled on Friday to meet Volodymyr Zelensky a membership questionnaire in order to launch the process of Ukraine's accession.
Von der Leyen promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine's accession to the European Union would be expedited.