The European Union rejects Ukraine’s bid to join, and is preparing for a long confrontation with Russia

  • EU leaders meet for joint summit on response to war
  • Summit focuses on weaning the EU off Russian energy
  • EU dashes Ukraine’s hopes for quick membership

VERSAILES, France (Reuters) – European Union leaders met on Thursday to agree a common response to the war in Ukraine, with differing views on how far to go with economic sanctions, how quickly to cut Russian energy imports, and whether or not to allow Kyiv to join their bloc quickly.

Russia has been waging war on its smaller neighbor since February 24, when it attacked from land, sea and air to oust Ukraine’s pro-Western government in a bid to thwart the former Soviet republic’s bid to join the European Union and NATO.

The fighting sent more than two million refugees fleeing to the European Union, which imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia and provided political and humanitarian support to Ukraine, as well as some arms supplies.

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Showing her sympathy and moral support, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We want a free and democratic Ukraine with which we share a common destiny.”

But other leaders have made clear that Ukraine will not be allowed to join their wealthy club quickly, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought and has some support from Ukraine’s neighbors to the east of the European Union.

“There is no fast-track action,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the main opponent of EU enlargement.

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said the EU should deepen its partnership with Ukraine rather than talk about membership, which requires the unanimity of all 27 member states.

Schulz did not comment on whether the bloc should ban Russian oil imports, which also requires the consent of all members, which Berlin has so far ruled out. Russia supplies about a third of Germany’s oil and gas needs.

But Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz supported the imposition of tougher sanctions.

“We have to stop this,” he told reporters. “Ukraine is fighting our battle, they are fighting a military fight. We must provide them in every possible way.”

“With sanctions, we should go much faster and more.”

9/11 European Union

Meeting at the opulent Palace of Versailles outside Paris, European Union leaders walked a fine line between their desire to support Ukraine and avoiding the risk of being drawn into war with a nuclear-armed Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Can we open membership procedures with a country at war? I don’t think so. Can we close the door and say: ‘Nothing’? That would be unfair.” “Let’s be careful.”

Shortly before the summit, Macron and Schultz demanded an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine during a joint phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian invasion, which Moscow calls a special military operation, shattered the European security system that arose from the ashes of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo described the moment as the European Union’s 9/11, referring to the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the United States that sparked years of the “international war on terror”.

Looking inward to prepare for what they feared will be years of escalating confrontation with Russia, leaders also sought to agree on how quickly they could reduce Russian energy imports, how they could increase their defensive capabilities, and how they could be stopped. Food price inflation.

“The war in Ukraine is a huge shock … but it is certainly something that will lead us to completely redefine the structure of Europe,” Macron said.

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Additional reporting by Jan Stropchowski, Michelle Rose, Juliette Gabkeiro, Richard Love, Philip Blinkensop, Marin Strauss, Andreas Reinke, Sabine Siebold and Benoit van Overstraiten; writing by Gabriela Bazincka; Editing by Gareth Jones and Rosalba O’Brien

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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