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1st Mar 2024

Macron keen for Ukraine to join novel European club

  • French president Emmanuel Macron (l) (Photo: Élysée.fr)
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France has proposed a nebulous new European club for Ukraine to join, as president Emmanuel Macron visits EU-aspirant capitals on the Russia front-line.

The new club, called the European Political Community (EPC), would pull together European countries who shared "a common set of democratic values", such as individual EU states, Ukraine, and the UK, France said in an informal paper seen by EUobserver on Wednesday (15 June).

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It would have a "light legal structure" and hold summits, which discussed joint projects on hot topics such as security, energy, and migration.

And it would stand alongside older intergovernmental clubs on the European stage, such as the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe — two bodies which accept non-democratic members.

The French proposal, which Macron aims to discuss at next week's summit in Brussels, comes amid talks on whether to grant Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova official EU-candidate status, in what would launch a symbolic new wave of enlargement.

The French proposal made clear the EPC "would not be an alternative to EU membership and would not be a substitute for the enlargement process".

But at the same time membership of the EPC would legally have nothing to do with future EU membership. It would be a mixed bag of countries who wanted to join and who didn't, serving only "for the strengthening of links with EU member states".

France said Ukraine should join the EPC for its own good, because no matter what the EU summit decided on its enlargement-candidacy status, it would take a long time before any symbolic first step made any difference on the ground.

"The duration that necessarily follows, does not today offer the necessary political framework to respond to the urgent historical and geopolitical needs arising from the war against Ukraine," France said.

The novel French proposal bubbled up the same week that Macron is touring Romania, Moldova, and — possibly — Ukraine.

"We are at a point when we need to send clear political signals, us Europeans, towards Ukraine and its people when it is resisting heroically," he said in Constanta, Romania, on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

"We will do everything to stop Russia's war forces, to help the Ukrainians and their army and continue to negotiate," he also said.

But the EPC idea and Macron's choice of words were less clear than the remarks by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis on what the EU summit should decide next week.

"Candidate status must be granted as soon as possible, it is a correct solution from a moral, economic and security perspective," Iohannis said.

Poland and the Baltic States also unconditionally support candidate status, EU diplomats say.

But Denmark, Portugal, and the Netherlands, among others, have voiced reservations, while some fear that Russia-friendly EU states Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, or Malta might wield their veto.

Macron was also forced to defend his recent remarks that "we must not humiliate Russia" in the Ukraine war to give diplomacy a chance.

His comments sparked a rebuke by Ukraine's foreign minister and moral outrage in some Western opinion circles.

But the French leader told press in Romania: "We [the EU and Russia] share a continent. Geography is stubborn and at the end of it, Russia is there. It was there yesterday, it's there today and will be there tomorrow".

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