Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and French President Emmanuel Macron have for the first time campaigned for Ukraine to become a candidate for membership of the European Union. Scholz said on Thursday during his long-awaited visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv: “My colleagues and I came to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family.”
Macron added: “In any case, we support Ukraine’s accession status to the European Union.” In addition to Macron, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis also accompanied the Federal Chancellor on this solidarity visit.
Scholz also campaigned for Ukraine and its small neighboring Republic of Moldova to be given the status of EU accession candidates. “Germany is for a positive decision in favor of Ukraine. This also applies to the Republic of Moldova,” he said.
However, Scholz made no concrete commitments for further arms deliveries. “We also support Ukraine with the supply of arms and we will continue to do so as long as Ukraine needs our support,” he said.
Scholz confirmed: “We are currently training the Ukrainian military on the most modern weapons, on the Panzerhaubitze 2000 and on the Gepard anti-aircraft vehicle.” Scholz, and the special radar Cobra.
In addition, Scholz referred to tripartite talks with the United States and Great Britain with the result that Ukraine would receive multiple rocket launchers. “Germany is giving Ukraine massive support,” was the Chancellor’s summary.
Scholz had previously met with Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Kyiv for a much-anticipated meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Scholz, Macron, Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who also traveled there, were received by Selenskyj in the Presidential Palace on Thursday afternoon. After a joint photo session in front of the building, the top politicians sat down at a round table.
The group spoke about “what is now necessary in this military conflict,” said Scholz. It’s about the possibility of “organizing defense over longer distances, and that’s exactly what all these weapons have to offer,” says Scholz. “These are the ones that are needed now.”
During the visit, the air alarm was triggered for the second time in the afternoon. There had been an air alert as soon as they arrived that morning. For this reason, a press conference by the heads of state and government could not be broadcast at first. For security reasons, this will be transmitted with a time delay, it said from the Elysée Palace. The Federal Press Office also said: “For security reasons, reporting on the PK is only possible after the end of the conference.”
In the morning, around 9.30 a.m. local time, the heads of state and government arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv after almost ten hours by night train. The airspace over Ukraine has been closed since the war began almost four months ago, so she too had to travel by train. First, Scholz, Macron and Draghi went to the Kiev suburb of Irpin. The city had been badly damaged during the Russian advance in February and March. Similar to neighboring Bucha, almost 300 civilians, some of whom were executed, were found there after the Russians retreated at the end of March.
Shortly after arriving in Kyiv, an air alarm was raised there. After about half an hour, this was lifted again. The train arrived at the station in the Ukrainian capital around 9:30 a.m. local time. Photos published by the Italian newspaper “La Republica” showed Macron, Draghi and Scholz sitting at a table in the special train beforehand, when they still looked very relaxed.
That changed, however, when the three EU representatives on site in Irpin got an idea of the situation. Before Russian aggression, Irpin had been a thriving town, increasingly attracting members of Ukraine’s middle class.
Today Irpin is about three quarters destroyed. With serious faces, Scholz, Macron and Draghi watched a video on site, which shows everyday life in Irpin before February 24, the beginning of the Russian aggression.
During the visit to Irpin, Scholz, Macron and Draghi were not accompanied by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Selenskyi had left it to the representatives of the local authorities to describe the extent of the destruction to the three representatives from Berlin, Paris and Rome.
Following the visit to Irpin, Scholz, Macron, Draghi and Iohannis spoke with Zelenskyj in the presidential palace in Kyiv about the pressing issues – further arms deliveries, Ukraine’s European accession prospects and Ukrainian grain exports, which have largely come to a standstill since February.
Romanian President Klaus Johannis, who is accompanying the three heads of state and government on their visit to Ukraine, was also to take part in the talks in the presidential palace.
Apparently, they also want to send a signal of strength and cohesion to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Scholz and Macron also repeatedly emphasize that although they are on the phone with Putin to achieve a ceasefire, in the end Ukraine will always decide for itself under what conditions it would be willing to hold concrete talks.
Recently, the course of the war in the east of the country has developed to the detriment of Ukraine, Russia relies on merciless artillery fire – and after more than 100 days of war it can increasingly record territory gains. Russia already occupies around 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory.
Zelenskyj therefore also calls for a clear signal that there is a rapid expansion in the delivery of heavy weapons.
Russia’s ex-president Dmitry Medvedev, a close confidant of Putin, asked in the short message service Telegram whether Ukraine will soon “exist on the world map”.
And when the chancellor, president and prime minister arrived, Medvedev wrote: “European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti love to visit Kyiv. With zero benefit.”
Ukraine would be promised EU membership and old howitzers, then the three would take the train home like they did 100 years ago. That will not bring Ukraine any closer to peace. “The clock is ticking.”
After getting off the train, Macron told reporters that he had come “to deliver a message of European unity.” France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
“I think this is an important moment,” Macron said. The French head of state went on to say that the visit was about a “message of European unity towards the Ukrainians and support to talk about the present and the future at the same time because the coming weeks will be very difficult”.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, citing French diplomatic circles, France is counting on a military victory for Ukraine so that Ukraine can regain its full territorial integrity. This also includes Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
The visit is fraught with many risks, for example, during the visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, there were Russian bombing raids on Kyiv.
Earlier on the train ride, Draghi in a sweater, Macron in a white shirt and Scholz in a black short-sleeved shirt were seen talking to each other at a table in the wood-panelled saloon car.
Scholz’ government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit had selected five journalists who were allowed to accompany the chancellor on the explosive trip. A dpa reporter reported that the Ukrainian railway company had put up advertising posters in the aisles of the special train, showing a selection of the Kyiv travelers. Headline: “Railway Diplomacy”.
It also shows two top German politicians from Berlin who were there before Scholz: including CDU leader Friedrich Merz and Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD).
The first visit to Europe by the three leading representatives of these key states, which are also members of the G7 group, is associated with high expectations.
Scholz had always emphasized that he only wanted to travel to Kyiv if there were specific things to discuss and announce.
“I’m not going to join a group of people who do a quick in and out with a photo op. But when it does, it’s always about very specific things,” he said in mid-May.
“But we don’t just want to demonstrate solidarity, we also want to assure that the help we organize – financial, humanitarian, but also when it comes to weapons – will continue. And that we will continue it for as long as it is necessary for Ukraine’s struggle for independence,” Scholz told the “Bild” newspaper. A reporter from the newspaper who was traveling with him reported that the chancellor had left Berlin for Poland shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening. As always, Scholz had his 30-year-old briefcase with him.
More on the Ukraine war at Tagesspiegel Plus:
Not only were his bodyguards from the BKA on board, but also the security group “Foreign Special Operations” of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The government plane landed at Rzeszo Airport in Poland shortly before 8 p.m.
Then the German delegation drove by car in the direction of the border with Ukraine. Spontaneously, the departure point was changed again.
According to the dpa, the Chancellery took chocolate bars, gummy bears and Pinot Noir from Baden with them on the trip. Jörg Kukies and Jens Plötner, the Chancellor’s advisors on economics and foreign policy, would have carried the boxes of food over the gloomy platform in Przemysl to the train themselves.
The chancellor was assigned a saloon car at the very end of the special train, while Emmanuel Macron was allowed to drive in the middle. Mario Draghi, who was the last to arrive at the train’s departure point, boarded his own saloon car at the front of the Zugspitze for the almost ten-hour train journey.
Macron and Draghi also had heavily armed forces with them.
At 11:48 p.m., the train started in the border town of Przemysl and crossed the border to the war zone shortly after midnight, the “Bild” reporter reported. At 12:54 a.m., the three met in Macron’s saloon car.
Above all, they are expected to bring a clear message with them, whether they support Ukraine’s candidate status for EU accession – there have been very different opinions on this among the 27 EU states so far. They talked for an hour and 20 minutes in private, at around 2.15 a.m. Scholz ran back to his chancellor’s compartment.
The EU Commission intends to present a proposal by Friday on whether Ukraine should be given candidate status. Then the 27 EU countries have to decide. An accession process would take years.
“Ukraine is part of the European family,” said EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) at the beginning of April. During her visit to Kyiv last weekend, she underlined her support, but also called for reforms in the country, for example in the fight against corruption.
It is expected in Brussels that the Commission will recommend a candidate status for Ukraine with conditions. The same could apply to western-oriented Moldova. Georgia, on the other hand, can hardly raise any hopes because, according to the EU assessment, it is not yet mature enough for this.
At the end of next week, the European heads of state and government will deal with this at their summit meeting on 23/24. June with the Commission proposal. Above all, Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Baltic States support Ukraine and demand a strong signal to Russia.
In addition, due to the increasing loss of territory and the high number of casualties in the Donbass, Zelenskyy is pushing for an expansion of heavy arms deliveries. Germany plays a key role here, as hardly any other country could deliver so many tanks, almost 200, in a relatively short time, but Scholz has not given the green light for this so far.
Reference is repeatedly made to informal NATO agreements that they do not want to supply Western tanks to Ukraine. But in his traffic light coalition, the FDP and the Greens are putting pressure on them to come to other decisions quickly.