Janša expects EU to commit to Ukraine membership

Photo: STA

Paris – Prime Minister Janez Janša has said the EU summit in Versailles should commit to Ukraine being guaranteed membership of the bloc similarly as the leaders did for the Western Balkan countries at the Thessaloniki summit in 2003. EU leaders should also pledge to do everything in their power for this to happen as soon as possible.

Similarly as in the case of the commitment to end the EU’s reliance on Russian energy, Janša said Slovenia was against talking of one year or the other in debate on Ukraine’s application for membership, arguing that promises what would happen in then years meant nothing to the Ukrainians.

Considering the draft statement, EU leaders are to pledge continued political, financial, material and humanitarian aid to Ukraine but are unlikely to give the country any clear guarantees over its membership of the EU that Ukraine wants.

The leaders are to reaffirm the wording from the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement that came into effect in September 2017 and that makes only a vague reference to membership: “The EU acknowledges the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomes its European choice.”

The EU leaders are to note that a few days ago EU member states called on the European Commission to draw up an opinion on Ukraine’s membership application in record time. Pending this opinion, and without further delay, the member states will further enhance the ties and deepen the partnership, reads the draft statement.

Asked how far EU leaders could realistically go on the issue of Ukraine’s EU membership, given the weak language in the draft statement, Janša said there were several drafts and they were changing, but that even that was a big improvement on the positions two weeks ago that it should not be mentioned at all.

He said they had spoken today with the leaders of most of the Ukrainian parliamentary parties, and he noted the remarkable unity among the Ukrainian people and politics. “Today is a very important day and I hope that the EU summit will be in tune with the times, which have changed drastically in the last two weeks,” he stressed.

Asked how likely it was for the EU to offer Ukraine an Association Agreement plus, Janša said that amidst war the Ukrainian Symphony Orchestra played the European anthem in Kyiv’s central square on Wednesday, and European flags were flying on many buildings shelled by the Russian army. “In Ukraine they are also fighting for Europe,” he added.

He said that today they had also spoken with Petro Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian president, who he said was 100% behind the current President Volodymyr Zelenskyy despite being his political opponent.

Poroshenko said something worth considering, namely that a Ukrainian pilot in an old Mig-29 is doing more at the moment to defend European democracy than ten state-of-the-art F16s in a hangar, Janša said.

“The consequences of what happens in Ukraine will shape the years and decades to come in the EU and the rest of the world,” said Janša, adding that the Australian PM had told him recently they were closely following developments in Ukraine, as it would depend on those how China would act in the Pacific.

The Versailles statement, to be adopted by EU leaders this weekend, is in Janša’s view a strong document that sets out a political framework for the EU’s real strategic autonomy, not only in energy, but also in food security and defence. There are few meetings and political documents of such importance, he said.