It will take decades for Ukraine to be accepted into the European Union, French leader Emmanuel Macron has said.
In a speech to the EU’s parliament in Strasbourg, he instead suggested Ukraine could join a “parallel European community” while it awaits a decision.
This would allow non-EU members to join Europe’s security architecture in other ways, Mr Macron said.
Ukraine began the process of applying to join the bloc in February this year, four days after Russia’s invasion.
“We all know perfectly well that the process to allow [Ukraine] to join would take several years indeed, probably several decades,” Mr Macron said on Monday.
He added: “That is the truth, unless we decide to lower the standards for accession. And rethink the unity of our Europe.”
Mr Macron said the “parallel European community” should be considered instead, instead of having to suspending the EU’s strict membership criteria to fast track Ukraine’s application.
He said it would be “a way of anchoring countries which are geographically in Europe and share our values.”
His comments came shortly after the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the top EU body would be publishing its initial opinion on Ukraine’s bid for membership in June.
Today Kyiv officials confirmed that Ukraine has submitted the second part of its EU membership application to Brussels.
It normally takes years for countries to negotiate EU membership, with candidates having to prove that they meet multiple criteria – from respecting democracy and the rule of law to having a robust enough economy.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has suggested the EU uses a special procedure to grant Ukraine immediate membership of the bloc, but this has not happened.
Later on Monday Emmanuel Macron will be in Berlin to hold talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the EU’s ongoing response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.