Zelensky calls on world to show support for Ukraine
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Speaking to Western delegates in Brussels – who had gathered for back-to-back summits of NATO, the G7 and the European Council last week – President Zelensky delivered an emotional plea for Ukraine to join the EU as the war in his nation rages on. In his latest attempt to fast-track membership to the bloc, the President, who has emerged as a wartime hero in many of the worlds’ eyes, said the war against Russia proved that Ukraine valued European ways of life, and that it “should be in the EU in the near future”.
But despite repeated calls for membership, the bloc made no further moves to fast-track Ukraine’s application, despite the unique circumstances.
After Mr Zelensky’s speech, the leaders simply reissued a call for the European Commission to weigh in on the prospect of Ukraine’s accession.
The statement said: “The European Council reiterates its invitation to the Commission to submit its opinion in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties.
“The European Union will continue to provide coordinated political, financial, material and humanitarian support.”
However, even if Commission leaders were to submit such an opinion right away, it would still be only the first step in the process of accession, the rest of which takes years before a country can usually successfully join.
Earlier in March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Ukraine was “one of us and we want them in the EU”, but analysts have now warned that these warm words might be little more than that at this stage.
Meanwhile, polling conducted by YouGov shows that public opinion has swung towards support for Ukraine’s accession in key EU member states.
The research – conducted between March 9 and 21 – shows net support for Ukraine joining the EU among the public in the four largest member states: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
The Spanish are the most supportive of Ukraine joining the EU, with six in 10 (60 percent) willing to see the embattled nation join the bloc, and only 14 percent opposed.
By contrast, there is only plurality support (which means the majority support, though not overall) for Ukrainian EU membership in Germany (46 percent), Italy (45 percent) and France (42 percent).
Nevertheless, this still represents a notable lead over the number who are opposed, standing at 30 percent in each country.
The research also shows a significant uptick in support when compared to the same polling conducted in 2018.
Writing on the results, YouGov’s Matthew Smith said: “While it is possible that attitudes shifted in the intervening period before the recent conflict, there is strong evidence to suggest that the Russian invasion is the catalyst for much of this shift.”
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Recent reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin might be willing to relax his hard line on Ukraine joining the EU.
According to envoys involved in peace talks speaking to the Financial Times on condition of anonymity, Moscow and Kyiv are discussing a pause in hostilities as part of a possible deal that would involve Ukraine abandoning its drive for NATO membership in exchange for security guarantees and the prospect of joining the EU.
A fresh round of peace talks this week saw Moscow promise to “drastically reduce” its military operations in two key areas of Ukraine “to boost mutual trust” in the talks, which are being held in Istanbul.
Initial signs of hope were met with reports of continued heavy bombardment and full-scale attacks, Ukraine said, while Moscow downplayed hopes of a breakthrough, saying nothing promising had been achieved.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said Russia “can’t and won’t talk about progress” because “it could only harm the negotiating process”.
He added: “For now, unfortunately, we cannot speak of any significant achievements and breakthroughs.”
One of Putin’s key demands in negotiations is a change to the Ukrainian constitution to guarantee it will never join NATO or the EU.
However, analysts now believe that Putin would be likely to relinquish his bid to keep Ukraine from the EU if it was guaranteed never to join NATO, as the war rumbles on and it becomes increasingly clear that Ukraine won’t fall easily.
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