The European Union in Versailles summit excludes a rapid accession of Ukraine

"Europe has changed under the impact of the pandemic, it will change faster and stronger under the impact of the war", declared Emmanuel Macron.

The European Union in Versailles summit excludes a rapid accession of Ukraine
The Twenty-Seven met at the Palace of Versailles on Thursday March 10 around Emmanuel Macron. (MICHEL EULER / AFP)

The heads of state and government of the EU, meeting at a summit in Versailles, ruled out on Thursday March 10 any rapid accession of Ukraine to the European Union, while opening the door to closer ties. The leaders of the Twenty-Seven met to work out the economic and military responses to the shock of the Russian invasion . "Europe has changed under the impact of the pandemic, it will change faster and stronger under the impact of the war" , predicted French President Emmanuel Macron.

Regarding Ukraine's accession to the EU, "there is no quick procedure" , recalled Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, while Kiev submitted an application in the hope of joining it "without delay » . We are going to reaffirm that "we want to work intensively with Ukraine" , he nevertheless specified.

“Can we now open an accession procedure with a country at war? I do not believe that. Should we close the door and say never? It would be unfair” , summed up Emmanuel Macron.

“Redefining the architecture of our Europe”

The French president, in the campaign for his re-election, and who holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, welcomed European leaders in the prestigious setting of the Ch√Ęteau de Versailles. A working dinner is planned in the Hall of Mirrors, where the treaty ending the First World War was signed.

Emmanuel Macron sees in the current crisis the confirmation of the need for a more sovereign Europe. This war will lead the Twenty-Seven to take "historic decisions" to "completely redefine the architecture of our Europe" , he said, wishing in particular for "decisions in terms of energy" which will lead to proposals at the end of March at a forthcoming summit. He also called for “decisions on defense” with “likely exceptional advice” on this file in May.

The war started by Vladimir Putin has highlighted the lack of European military capabilities, the 27 member states having greatly reduced their budgets since the end of the cold war.

Dependence on Russia

It also highlighted the extreme dependence of the European Union on gas imported from Russia , which represents 40% of its consumption and limits its ability to act against Moscow. Even if it has adopted an unprecedented package of sanctions, Europe continues to finance Russia through its energy purchases, which it is unable to do without in the very short term.

This dependence also threatens its economy, which must consolidate after having already suffered the historic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic. The summit should not give birth to decisions, but rather set political guidelines that will be implemented in the months to come.

According to a draft of conclusions, the Twenty-Seven, which reaffirm the key role of NATO, will emphasize their desire to invest "more and better in military capabilities" , while a defense strategy must be published before the end of the month. They will also examine the Commission's plan to reduce dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds this year, but also to reduce imports of coal and oil from Russia, by diversifying suppliers and developing alternative energies such as renewables or hydrogen.

Cushion the impact of rising energy prices

The strengthening of gas storage , but also "the optimization of the operation of the electricity market" , demanded by Spain and France, are also mentioned, as is a commitment for new urgent measures intended to cushion the impact of rising energy prices for European consumers. The liter of gasoline at more than 2 euros raises fears of social revolts of the "yellow vests" type .

"We must support the purchasing power of families with the same speed as we responded to Russia's action ," declared the head of the Italian government, Mario Draghi.

The second day of the summit on Friday will be devoted to discussions on strengthening the EU's economic model, before a final press conference in the afternoon.


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