Sometimes meetings at the Chancellery can have a highly symbolic meaning. During the budget debate in the Bundestag last Wednesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had to put up with the question from Union faction leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) as to why he was not receiving the President of the Ukrainian Parliament, Ruslan Stefantschuk, during his visit to Berlin. Early on Friday morning, there was a meeting between Scholz and the guest from Ukraine in the Chancellery – which in a way serves as an indicator of the extent of the federal government’s solidarity with the government in Kyiv. However, even after the meeting, a number of questions remained unanswered.
First of all, there is the question of what Scholz wants to do with the invitation to Kyiv that Stefantschuk issued. Deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner only said that Scholz “kindly took note” of the invitation to speak in parliament in Kyiv. In other words: When Scholz, who last visited the Ukrainian capital before the Russian war of aggression, will return there is unclear. Incidentally, the same applies to French President Emmanuel Macron.
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The question of how the German government intends to position itself in view of the desire of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to give his country the status of an EU accession candidate at the forthcoming EU summit on June 23 and 24 is probably even more pressing. There is now a consensus in the EU that an express accession to the EU, as originally envisaged by Zelensky, is out of the question. Experts assume that at least a decade would pass between the awarding of the membership candidacy and full membership of Ukraine.
Nevertheless, the issue continues to divide the EU: Germany, along with countries like France and the Netherlands, is reticent about the candidate status for Kyiv. On the other hand, countries like Poland are aggressively pushing for it.
There is additional pressure for the 27 EU countries to make a decision because Brussels is expecting that the EU Commission will recommend granting candidate status to Ukraine before the summit at the end of June. The Brussels authorities are currently examining the government’s application for EU membership in Kyiv.
Scholz, on the other hand, has so far remained vague on the specific question of whether Ukraine should receive the coveted status or not. He recently pointed out that questions of democracy and the rule of law must also be considered with a view to Ukraine’s possible EU membership. In particular, corruption, which is widespread in Ukraine, is seen as an obstacle on the country’s path into the community.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) struck a completely different note on Thursday. “It’s not enough to say yes, you belong to Europe, you belong in the European Union,” Baerbock said.
The head of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter (Greens), told the Tagesspiegel that Russian President Vladimir Putin is also fighting against the European integration of Ukraine with his war of aggression. “Denying Ukraine candidate status now would be nothing less than a success for Putin,” said Hofreiter. FDP parliamentary group leader Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said: “Ukraine deserves accession prospects.”
Meanwhile, the foreign and European politicians of the Union faction have reportedly agreed on a position according to which Ukraine should be given the status in question at the EU summit at the end of the month.
On the other hand, Scholz’s focus is more on the states of the western Balkans, which also want to become a member of the EU. A trip by the Chancellor to the region is planned for the end of next week. The stations also include North Macedonia, which hopes to open accession negotiations with the community soon.