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EU leaders meet informally in Versailles to discuss Ukraine’s EU candidate status amid ongoing war

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In a statement issued on Friday, the European Council ”acknowledged the European aspirations and the European choice of Ukraine, as stated in the Association Agreement.’

Leaders from EU countries met in Versailles, near Paris, as part of an emergency two-day informal meeting of the European Council. France currently chairs the EU Council of Ministers.

The meeting is chaired by the Council”s President Charles Michel and leaders are discussing the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

One of the biggest topics of conversation is Ukraine’s candidate status. According to a Council official, some heads of state are in favor of making Ukraine an EU candidate country. However there is not total agreement among heads of government. This meeting might be when the European Council takes an official position on Ukraine’s status? writes Taylor Schmitt of EU Reporter.

“In response to Russia’s aggression, the European Union has shown unity and strength,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote in his invitation letter to heads of state. “We have imposed on Russia the strictest sanctions ever adopted. The European Union and its member states are providing coordinated humanitarian, political, financial and material support to Ukraine. Member states are also showing immense solidarity in hosting countless people fleeing the war.”

One of the first meetings arranged with the heads of state was an exchange of views with Roberta Metsola, who publicly announced her support for Ukraine’s application for candidacy status at the emergency plenary session last week.

“We recognize Ukraine’s European perspective,” Metsola said to the Parliament and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. “And as our resolution clearly states, we welcome, Mister President [Zelenskyy], Ukraine’s application for candidate status and we will work towards that goal.”

In a statement issued on Friday, the European Council ”acknowledged the European aspirations and the European choice of Ukraine, as stated in the Association Agreement.”

The statement adds, ”On 28 February 2022, exercising the right of Ukraine to choose its own destiny, the President of Ukraine submitted the application of Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. The Council has acted swiftly and invited the Commission to submit its opinion on this application in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties. Pending this and without delay, we will further strengthen our bonds and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine in pursuing its European path. Ukraine belongs to our European family.”

Heads of state are also expected to discuss further sanctions against both Russian and Belarusian banks and oligarchs who assisted in the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s army.

The European heads of state or government expressed their willingness to bring the Russian President back to the negotiating table. Talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers earlier in the day failed to produce any progress.

“We need to identify the next steps to have a ceasefire and real negotiations for a peace agreement”, declared Charles Michel.

In their statement, the EU leaders  ” demand that Russia ceases its military action and withdraws all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine immediately and unconditionally, and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.”.

Other topics of discussion included energy and defense as they relate to the Ukrainian crisis. Several EU officials have declared the EU’s reliance on Russian gas and oil unacceptable over the last few days.

EJP contributed to this report.

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