Paris – Prime Minister Janez Janša is convinced that Ukraine will sooner or later get stronger commitments from the EU about its membership in the bloc, as the situation in the country will contribute to this in the coming weeks. He regretted that this could not be done at the ongoing summit in Versailles, although “it was close”.
The EU leaders said in a statement on Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, adopted late on Thursday after a long debate, that Ukraine belonged to the European family, but the country has not received the desired guarantees of quick EU accession.
Arriving on Friday for the second and final day of the informal summit in Versailles, Janša noted that the essential difference was whether Ukraine received assurance that it was part of the “European family” or part of the “EU family”.
He said Slovenia was in favour of Ukraine receiving similar guarantees regarding EU membership as the countries of the Western Balkans in Greece’s Thessaloniki in 2003.
Janša believes that a strong political message was needed because “anything that gives Ukrainians a stronger hope to hold on and fight affects the course of the war.”
“The war will stop when Ukraine is strong enough to stop the advance of the Russian forces, and only then can serious negotiations begin,” the prime minister said, adding that Russia was buying time to achieve certain tactical military goals.
Asked whether enforcement of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Janša himself has advocated in recent weeks, was discussed in Versailles, he said the EU could not do anything about it, as this belonged to discussions as part of NATO.
Janša said that there was a lot of misunderstanding regarding this proposal, as a no-fly zone could be enforced in a variety of ways – by an external force, by means of interceptors, or by someone who is sovereign in the airspace and has the means to provide effective air defence.
For now, things are leaning in the direction of making Ukraine strong enough to protect at least major urban centres from airstrikes, he said, adding that Russia used modern aircraft to a limited degree as it was afraid of losing them.
As for possible new sanctions against Russia, Janša said that the mentioned options were excluding the key Russian banks Sberbank and Gazprombank from the SWIFT international financial data exchange system.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the possibility of establishing a new fund modelled after the Covid-19 recovery fund is also being mentioned. “Investments are necessary if we want strategic autonomy to become reality,” Janša said.
According to him, the EU could redirect some of the funds it had allocated for tackling the pandemic to deal with the consequences of the war in Ukraine. “Priorities have changed and we need to respond to that,” the prime minister said.
Janša also said that 10 to 15 million refugees from Ukraine could enter Europe in the coming weeks if the war did not stop, as he answered questions about the EU allegedly applying double standards for refugees, in reference to refugees from Syria.
He said he did not see any dilemma as it was apparent that mostly women and children were fleeing Ukraine, as they had been told at the summit in Versailles that as many as 90% of refugees from Ukraine fell to this category.
There are no economic migrants among them who would “merely want to take advantage of the misfortune of others to take care of themselves, which could not be held against them, but the capacities are limited,” the prime minister said.
According to him, in the case of Ukraine there are no questions about who is a refugee and who is a migrant, i.e. who really needs to be helped. “There is 100% support for humanitarian measures to help refugees, and this is good,” he concluded.