Kuleba: No to EU candidate status would ‘kill our hope’

“Should Ukraine not be granted candidate status, it will lead to the death of our hope. It will kill the hope of the Ukrainian people,” Kuleba stressed during his joint press conference with Habeck in Berlin. [FILIP SINGER/EPA]

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba emphasised on Thursday (12 May) the importance of reaching EU candidate status for the country’s morale in the war, while German economy minister Robert Habeck warned of giving ‘false promises’.

“Should Ukraine not be granted candidate status, it will lead to the death of our hope. It will kill the hope of the Ukrainian people,” Kuleba stressed during his joint press conference with Habeck in Berlin.

“92% of Ukrainians are now in favour of membership in the European Union. Support for accession in Germany is also the highest in history. I don’t think politicians can find any rational arguments today to turn Ukraine down again,” Kuleba added.

Ukraine submitted an official request to allow its country to gain membership in the bloc in late February.

On Monday, Ukraine submitted the second part of the questionnaire that is required to become a candidate for membership. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that he expects an answer to his plea by June.

Ukraine: 'We have already paid for our EU membership with blood'

As Russia’s war rages on in the country’s east, Ukrainian officials are lobbying hard for EU leaders to grant the country candidate status as soon as possible, also as insurance to seal Kyiv’s strategic orientation.

However, member states are divided on whether Ukraine, which already unsuccessfully attempted to join the EU following the annexation of Crimea in 2015, should be allowed a fast-tracked candidacy status.

German economy minister stressed that the decision “should not be rushed” as it would only lead to “disappointment” otherwise.

“Of course, there are rules for entry into the European Union. But it should also not be an alibi or a fake offer, as we have actually experienced in other places, which then led to a lot of disappointment,” Habeck said.

It is thus important that “no false promises are made that are not kept,” he added.

His counterpart Kuleba stressed the urgency of the decision.

“After these discussions with the German politicians, I have come to the conclusion that today, exactly today and now, this decision, on which the history, the future of Europe will then depend, must be taken,” he said.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a compromise that would see the political rapprochement of Ukraine, while falling short of full membership, to a European Political Community.

“This new political organization would allow democratic European nations that adhere to our core values to find a new space of political cooperation,” Macron said on Monday.

The proposal also received support from Germany, with German chancellor Olaf Scholz stating that it would be “an interesting approach.”

In a similar vein, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock stressed during her visit to Kyiv on Tuesday that a reform of the EU is needed before Ukraine is granted full membership status.

Macron teases alternative to EU enlargement

French president Emmanuel Macron on Monday (9 May) pitched a proposal for a new “political European community” that would allow Ukraine and others currently outside of the EU framework to be more closely involved with the EU.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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