“It will take decades for Ukraine to be accepted into the European Union (EU),” France’s Emmanuel Macron has said.
In a speech to the EU’s Parliament in Strasbourg, he instead suggested Ukraine could join a “parallel European community” while it awaited a decision.
This would allow non-EU members to join Europe’s security architecture in other ways, said President Macron.
Ukraine began the process of applying to join the bloc in February this year, four days after Russia’s invasion.
“We all know perfectly well that the process to allow (Ukraine) to join would take several years indeed, probably several decades,” Mr Macron said on Monday.
He added: “That is the truth, unless we decide to lower the standards for accession. And rethink the unity of our Europe.”
Mr Macron said the “parallel European community” should be considered, instead of having to suspend the EU’s strict membership criteria to fast track Ukraine’s application.
He said it would be “a way of anchoring countries which are geographically in Europe and share our values.”
His comments came shortly after European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that the EU’s executive would be publishing its initial opinion on Ukraine’s bid for membership in June.
Kyiv officials confirmed on Monday that Ukraine had submitted the second part of its EU membership application to Brussels.
It normally takes years for countries to negotiate EU membership, with candidates having to prove that they met multiple criteria – from respecting democracy and the rule of law to having a robust economy.
Later on Monday, the French president will be in Berlin to hold talks with German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, about the EU’s ongoing response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. -BBC