European leaders back ‘immediate’ EU candidacy for Ukraine

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania have met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to drive home a message of support that Kyiv hopes will lead to more weapons supplies and tougher sanctions on Russia.

In the first such visit to the Ukrainian capital since Russia unleashed its invasion, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Italy’s Mario Draghi and Romania’s Klaus Iohannis also gave qualified support for Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union on Thursday.

After earlier batting away suggestions of being soft on Russia, Macron said the West would not demand any concessions from Ukraine and that the circumstances of peace talks would be on Kyiv’s terms.

Zelenskyy, who has not left Ukraine since the invasion and was dressed in a khaki t-shirt, has voiced gratitude for the West’s help, though his administration also previously berated allies for dragging their feet on sanctions and arms supplies.

French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, centre, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz listen as they visit Irpin, outside Kyiv [Ludovic Marin/AP Photo]
“My colleagues and I came here to Kyiv today with a clear message: ‘Ukraine belongs to the European family,’” Scholz said, while Macron said, “We all four support the immediate EU candidate status” for Ukraine.

For his part, Draghi said: “The most important message of our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the EU.”

And it wants Ukraine to have candidate status and will support this position at the next European Council.”