Ukraine's Hopes of Joining EU Crushed as France, Germany Resist

Ukraine's hopes of quickly joining the European Union (EU) were dealt a major blow on Thursday as the leader of the German government suggested there would be no accelerated process for the country.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed the Bundestag (German parliament) on Thursday and expressed support for Ukraine but warned that there are "no shortcuts" on the road to membership of the economic bloc.

His comments appear to reiterate remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron on May 10 in which the newly re-elected leader of France said Ukrainian membership could take "decades."

"There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU," Scholz told the Bundestag, arguing that carving out an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to other countries, specifically highlighting several Balkan nations.

"The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years," the chancellor said.

Scholz' comments echo Macron's remarks about potential Ukrainian membership.

"We all know perfectly well that the process to allow [Ukraine] to join would take several years indeed, probably several decades," the French president told the European parliament in Strasbourg on May 10.

"That is the truth, unless we decide to lower the standards for accession. And rethink the unity of our Europe," Macron added, though he also suggested that Ukraine could become part of a "parallel European community"—a concept he's been promoting since re-election to the presidency on April 24.

Germany is not opposed to Ukrainian membership of the EU, however, and Scholz' remarks may indicate the German government is interested in Macron's idea of a "parallel European community." What that community means in practice is as yet undefined, but it may be used as a means to include countries that are some way off formal membership.

The foreign affairs committees of the French, German, Italian and Spanish parliaments issued a joint statement this month expressing support for Ukraine's ambitions to join the bloc. Those are the four largest EU member states.

The European Commission is expected to publish its opinion on Ukrainian membership by the end of June, which will be a very important step along the road to accession.

On Thursday, Scholz expressed support for several Balkan countries' ambitions to join the EU—Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Those countries have been engaged in a years-long process of reforms in order to join the EU and in April, the German chancellor called for their accession to the bloc to be sped up.

"Honoring our commitments to them is not just a question of our credibility. Today more than ever, their integration is also in our strategic interests," Scholz said.

The chancellor also urged the creation of an EU reconstruction fund for Ukraine, saying the bloc "must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an appeal for EU membership during a speech to the European Council in May 25 and singled out member states that were supportive or less than supportive of his country as they have battled a Russian invasion.

Zelensky addressed Macron directly, saying: "Emmanuel, I really believe that you will stand for us."

"We believe in you. We need your support. We believe in your people. We believe in the European Union," Zelensky said, ending his speech by adding: "And we believe that Germany will also be with us at the crucial moment."

Unlike NATO, the EU is not a military alliance but is primarily an economic and political association with a certain degree of shared sovereignty and security cooperation.

Newsweek has asked the Ukrainian foreign ministry for comment.

Ukainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stands in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on April 4, 2022, and an inset of the European Union flag. German and France have both expressed reservations to fast-tracked EU membership for Ukraine. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/Getty Images