the EU wants to be okay with Putin

At their summit, Thursday and Friday, in Versailles, European Union leaders will examine Ukraine’s application for membership.

Will this summit be a European leap forward? The leaders of the Twenty-seven are meeting in Versailles to discuss how the European Union can assume its responsibilities in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Just like last February 24, the meeting promises to be full of emotion. But the general state of mind now is that of reaching a milestone. “The Russian war of aggression represents a tectonic shift in European history”, takes note of the draft statement.

The Union’s Heads of State or Government will condemn Russia’s actions, call for an end and access to humanitarian aid. They should also take stock of the impact of European sanctions. Additional measures will be discussed under pressure from Eastern and Central countries. That is “necessary and useful”, we assure, while specifying that no decision is expected. Especially now that a new package of sanctions has just been adopted. Three Belarusian banks will be disconnected from Swift, 160 people, including 14 oligarchs, will be added to the EU’s blacklist. In the financial field, Europeans will limit the use of cryptocurrencies, which are used to circumvent the sanctions in force. As for the reception of the 2 million Ukrainians who have now fled their country, this debate will take place without tension. “We are still in a very tense phase of reception. At the moment everyone is supporting”, appoints a diplomat.

The real difficulty comes Thursday night, when it comes to processing applications for European Union membership submitted by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. All eyes are mainly on Kiev. All agree to send a message of hope, to show that Ukraine belongs to the European family. At the beginning of the week, the ambassadors of the 27 countries formally asked the European Commission to analyze the requests from the three countries. A decision taken in less than a week, as opposed to several months in normal times, urges a diplomat, adding that“It is therefore already an accelerated procedure”.

But the Twenty-seven will have to go further and give the Commission political guidelines. Should all three requests be analyzed at the same time? Go fast? What to do with the countries that are already candidates (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey)? The division is strong, reflections of “Different stories, opinions and sensitivities within the EU about enlargement”, explains Ilke Toygür, researcher at the SWP.

Very long process

A group of eight countries – led by Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria – support Kiev’s move and want to act quickly. Others slow down, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, but also France. “Today there is no question of membership”, underlines the Elysée and points out that the priority will be to help these countries after the war. And to bring them closer to the Union, there is the idea of ​​creating a new privileged partner status. The membership process is very long anyway. And nothing or little plays in favor of a new expansion.

The war in Ukraine will influence debates about Europe’s energy independence, the future of its defense and its economic capabilities. But the approach is here “with a long-term perspective”, summarizes Éric Maurice of the Schuman Foundation. The discussions about energy should be lively. “There is a clear desire to get out of dependence on Russian energy” but the nuances are diverse, especially about the desirability of imposing an embargo on Russian gas and oil, explains a European diplomat. On this subject, as on any other, “We should not expect a catalog of concrete and quantified measures. European leaders will define the global guidelines for actions to be clarified and implemented in the coming weeks and months.” warns Eric Maurice.