The leaders of the European Union’s three largest economies were in Kyiv on Thursday after travelling to Ukraine via train overnight to hold talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
At a news conference, French President Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi all backed Ukraine’s bid to one day join the EU.
Scholz said “Ukraine belongs to the European family,” while Macron said Europe would stand by Ukraine “as long as it takes.”
During the talks, which also saw the EU delegation visit the Kyiv suburb Irpin, the scene of heavy fighting during the first weeks of the war, the European leaders held some awkward-looking photo opportunities with Zelenskyy.
From left to right: Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mario Draghi and Klaus Iohannis. Photo: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
While the Ukrainian president appeared in his now-familiar military-style green T-shirt and combats, the European leaders – joined by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis who travelled to Ukraine separately – stood by in their suits, underlining the very different situations the leaders find themselves in.
Maybe we can be thankful that Macron didn’t turn up in his hoodie, at least.
Both Scholz and Macron have been criticised by Ukraine for their responses to Russia’s invasion – the German chancellor for a perceived lack of urgency in supplying arms to Ukraine, and Macron for saying that the EU should not “humiliate” Russia, in order to give Vladimir Putin an “exit ramp” to resolve the conflict.
The European Commission is expected to make an announcement on Ukraine’s potential candidate status soon, potentially beginning a lengthy process to join the EU.