Ukraine: EU summit in Versailles rules out rapid accession
Steph Deschamps / March 11, 2022
EU heads of state and government 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 economic and military responses to the shock of the Russian invasion. Europe has changed under the blow of the pandemic, it will change faster and stronger under the blow of the war, predicted French President Emmanuel Macron , who received his guests in the prestigious setting of the Palace of Versailles.
Currently campaigning for re-election, he is holding the rotating presidency of the EU Council. Regarding the accession of Ukraine, there is no fast-track procedure, said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, while Kiev has submitted an application in the hope of joining without delay.
Can we open an accession procedure today with a country at war? I don't think so. Should we close the door and say never? That would be unfair, said Emmanuel Macron.
Without delay, we will further strengthen our ties and deepen our partnership in order to support Ukraine on its European journey. Ukraine is part of our European family, the leaders finally proclaimed in a written statement.
The Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Jansa, did not hide the divisions between those who think that the 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 accelerate the recognition of the Ukrainian candidacy.
The debates ended in the night, around 2:30 am, 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, hoping in particular for decisions on energy that will lead to proposals at the end of March at a forthcoming summit. He also called for decisions on defense with probably an exceptional Council on this issue in May.
The war unleashed by Vladimir Putin has highlighted the lack of European military capabilities, as the 27 member states have greatly reduced their budgets since the end of the Cold War.
It also highlighted the EU's extreme dependence on imported gas from Russia, which accounts for 40% of its consumption and limits its ability to act against Moscow. Even though 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.
According to a draft of conclusions, the 27, who reaffirm the key role of NATO, will emphasize their willingness 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.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter that she would propose the goal of EU independence from Russian fossil fuels by 2027.
The strengthening of gas storage, but also optimizing the functioning of the electricity market, demanded by Spain and France, are also mentioned, as well as new urgent measures to cushion the impact of rising energy prices for consumers. The gasoline price of more than 2 euros per liter raises fears of social revolts such as yellow vests.