PARIS: A bid by Ukraine to join the European Union would not be finalised for “15 or 20 years,” France’s Europe minister said on Sunday, pouring cold water on Kyiv’s hopes for quick entry in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

“We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying,” Clement Beaune told Radio J. “It’s probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time.” “I don’t want to offer Ukrainians any illusions or lies,” he said, reiterating an offer by President Emmanuel Macron to create a looser “European political community” that could help integrate Ukraine with the bloc sooner.

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday denounced “such compromises” and insisted on an immediate start of the process towards full EU membership. But Beaune said Macron’s proposal is not “an alternative to joining the European political community. It doesn’t prevent membership later on.” Under Macron’s plan, “there could be free circulation in Europe, and it could benefit from the European budget for reconstruction and the revival of its country, society and economy,” he said.

Some EU leaders share France’s scepticism about a rapid acceptance of Ukraine’s membership bid, concerned that it will take time to rebuild a war-shattered economy, reduce corruption and adopt far-reaching economic and legal reforms.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there were “no shortcuts” to joining and the accession process “is not a matter of a few months or years”.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022

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