Macron dampens Ukraine’s hopes of quick EU membership

Macron dampens Ukraine's hopes of quick EU membership

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron visit the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, illuminated in Ukrainian colors, on May 9, 2022. (AFP / John MACDOUGALL)

Emmanuel Macron warned Monday that a possible accession of Ukraine to the EU would take “decades” and proposed, while waiting for the entry into a new entity, a “European political community”, likely also to welcome countries like the United Kingdom.

This idea, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz considered “very interesting” during a meeting between the two leaders in Berlin, is however likely to create fears and frustrations among the already declared or potential candidates for European membership.

The French head of state unveiled it during his first speech on Europe since his re-election, delivered in Strasbourg.

This “European political community”, the outlines of which Mr. Macron clarified in the wake of a joint press conference in Berlin with Olaf Scholz, could offer “another form of cooperation”, he said.

This organization “would allow democratic European nations adhering to our core values ​​to find a new space for political cooperation, security, cooperation”, he explained.

The seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, May 9, 2022 (POOL / Ludovic MARIN)

The seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, May 9, 2022 (POOL / Ludovic MARIN)

Ukraine, but also countries less advanced on the path to membership, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, could become members, pending the completion of the very long membership procedures, which sometimes take several “decades”, according to M; Macron.

He also judged that Great Britain, which left the EU in 2020, could have “its full place”.

He also mentioned countries “that have been embroiled in membership issues…sometimes for decades”, in an apparent allusion to Turkey.

The proposal revives the debate, already old and controversial, on the possibility of a European Union organized in several concentric circles with countries benefiting from different levels of integration.

– Treaties –

In Strasbourg, the French president also said he was in favor of changes to the European treaties in order to make the EU more “efficient and independent”, a proposal which is already facing opposition from nearly half of the Member States.

“We will have to reform our texts, it is obvious. One of the ways of this reform is the convening of a convention for the revision of the treaties. It is a proposal from the European Parliament and I approve of it”, declared the President.

France having the rotating presidency of the EU Council until the end of the first half of the year, Emmanuel Macron wants this question to be addressed “with the necessary audacity and freedom” with the leaders of the 27 Member States during the planned summit. June 23 and 24.

Thirteen countries have already expressed their opposition on Monday to such changes, which are often difficult to obtain, to give more powers to the EU or modify its functioning.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said she was ready to reform the EU, including “by changing the treaties if necessary”, in particular to abandon unanimous voting in certain areas, a frequent source of blockage as currently on the issue of the Russian oil embargo, or giving “a more important role” to Europe in health or defence.

– Conference on Europe –

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, May 9, 2022 ( POOL / Ludovic MARIN )

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, May 9, 2022 ( POOL / Ludovic MARIN )

Such changes are part of some 300 measures proposed by the Conference on the Future of Europe, a vast public consultation born of an idea by the French President, whose final report was submitted to the Presidents of the three European institutions in the hemicycle of the European Parliament.

The Conference on the Future of Europe was officially launched, already in Strasbourg, on May 9, 2021, and ended on the same symbolic date, a year later, this time in the midst of the war in Ukraine.

This Monday day “gave two very different faces to May 9”, underlined Emmanuel Macron.

In Moscow, “there was a desire for a show of force, intimidation and a resolutely warlike speech” by President Vladimir Putin. While in Strasbourg, “there was the association of citizens, national and European parliamentarians” to “think about the future” of the continent, he said.

Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz went in the evening to affirm their “full support” for Ukraine by walking together under the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, symbol of the Cold War and illuminated in the colors of the country invaded by Russia.