KYIV: The European Union signalled its long-term support for Ukraine on Monday as its foreign ministers convened in Kyiv for a historic first gathering outside the bloc’s borders.
The meeting came as disagreements grow among EU members over support for Ukraine and as Kyiv’s forces make limited gains in a high-stakes counteroffensive against Russian troops.
“We are convening in a historic meeting of the EU foreign ministers here in Ukraine, candidate country and future member of the EU,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
The purpose of the meeting was to “express our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people”, he said, acknowledging that the gathering “does not have the aim of reaching concrete conclusions and decisions”.
Kremlin says Ukraine fatigue ‘will grow,’ after US aid rift
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed the discussions as an important signal of European support. “For the first time ever the foreign affairs council is going to sit down outside of its current borders — outside the borders of the European Union — but within future borders of the European Union,” Kuleba told reporters alongside Borrell.
There are growing fears of cracks appearing within the bloc as concern also rises over the support of key backer the United States. Hungary, Russia’s closest ally in the EU, could now be joined by Slovakia as a potential block to more backing as populist Robert Fico pushes for power in Bratislava after winning elections this weekend.
There have also been tensions between Kyiv and some of its most strident backers on the EU’s eastern edge — most notably Poland — over the influx of Ukrainian grain onto their markets.
France’s top diplomat Catherine Colonna appeared to address the concerns, saying the meeting was a signal to Moscow of the bloc’s determination to support Ukraine over the long term. “It is a demonstration of our resolute and lasting support for Ukraine, until it can win,” she told reporters.
“Fatigue over this conflict — fatigue from the completely absurd sponsorship of the Kyiv regime — will grow in various countries, including the US,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. He added that Washington would nonetheless “continue its involvement in this conflict”. A compromise struck in the US Congress over the weekend left out fresh funding for Ukraine due to opposition from hardline Republicans.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for the creation of a strategy to insulate Ukraine from the fallout of a feared campaign of Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid in the coming months as temperatures drop.
“Ukraine needs a winter protection plan of air defence, generators and a strengthening of the energy supply,” she said in Kyiv.
“We saw last winter the brutal way in which the Russian president wages this war, with targeted attacks on critical infrastructure such as power plants.”
Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2023