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28th Jan 2023

EU opens door to Ukraine in 'geopolitical' summit

  • At a previous EU summit, Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelesky briefs EU leaders (Photo: European Union)
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EU leaders on Thursday (23 June) are expected to grant membership candidate status to Ukraine, and Moldova, and to Georgia (once it fulfils certain conditions) in a move that can be seen as a geopolitical response to Russia's aggression on Europe's eastern flank.

Heads of state and government are gathering in Brussels for their usual pre-summer summit, which will also host the Western Balkan leaders to forge a closer alliance and try to overcome regional tensions.

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"It was unthinkable, now it is a reality," an EU diplomat described Ukraine's candidacy status to a group of journalists on condition of anonymity.

"It's a huge success," said another EU diplomat.

The move is a gesture to the Ukrainians fighting Russian invaders for months, and is also the centrepiece decision of a meeting which was described as a "geopolitical summit" by a senior EU official.

EU diplomats said that there is also a clearer consensus across the bloc that eastern European and Western Balkan countries should be tied closer to the EU.

"Our neighbours should be binded to us, and should not be pushed towards Russia — there is an understanding of that," the EU diplomat said, adding that if a country fulfils all the conditions, they could join in four to five years — adding that bigger countries could be problematic, as they change the dynamic within the EU.

"I don't see this harsh 'never-never' anymore," the EU diplomat said on the enlargement mood.

Some EU governments are pushing for Bosnia and Herzegovina to receive candidate status as well, after a political agreement cleared the way for elections there in the autumn.

However, leaders from Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia did not show up in protest of Bulgaria's veto on EU accession talks for North Macedonia.

As Bulgaria's government faced a no-confidence vote on Wednesday evening while EU officials were hopeful Sofia's blockage could be lifted.

Western Balkan leaders and their EU counterparts meet on Thursday morning, but the meeting could "overshadow" the entire summit, an EU diplomat warned, because of Bulgaria's veto.

EU leaders are also expected to discuss the French initiative on the so-called "wider Europe", an idea of president Emmanuel Macron to bring non-EU member European countries closer.

Details are vague, with leaders only set to exchange ideas.

The summit plans to "offer a platform for political coordination for European countries across the continent," according to the draft conclusions, with the objective "to foster political dialogue and cooperation to address issues of common interest so as to strengthen the security, stability and prosperity of the European continent".

Two-day summit

On Friday (24 June), EU leaders are set to discuss economic, energy prices and food security.

Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi is expected to bring up the possible price cap for energy prices, as member states suffer from surging prices coupled with increasing inflation, hitting eight percent in the eurozone.

The EU Commission has tried to identify alternative gas supplies and is pushing for green investments, and is encouraging member states to do more to save more energy.

Firing up coal plants , extending the life span of nuclear plants are a few ideas that emerged in EU countries as the supply situation worsen with the severance of Russian gas imports by the the winter.

The 27 heads of state and government will also discuss eurozone issues with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, as more and more leaders are worried about voters' distraught over soaring inflation.

EU heavyweights pledge Ukraine 'immediate' candidate status

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian premier Mario Draghi and Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said they support fast-tracking Ukraine becoming an official candidate to join the bloc.

A chorus of warnings about Russian meddling in Bosnia

In a thinly veiled warning to Russia, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pledged to "continue deterring those who would feel emboldened to undertake destabilisation actions" during a trip to Sarajevo.

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