The weight of historic decisions plans these days over Brussels. The war has definitively rendered untenable the mantra that "Ukraine belongs to the European family" with which, without further compromise, the Union has always responded to Kiev's attempts at rapprochement.
The dramatic demand for "immediate" accession presented by President Volodymyr Zelensky on February 28, on the fifth day of the Russian invasion, placed the European institutions and governments before a historic decision for all the parties involved. The moment is near. "Prove that your words are not in vain," Zelensky pleads with the EU.
The European Commission will announce its verdict this Friday. And despite the fact that Paris, Berlin and The Hague, among other capitals, have made it clear that they do not believe that now is the time to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate country, this is what Brussels is about to do. It is the impression left by the orientation debate held yesterday by the College of European Commissioners prior to the decision, affirm sources present at the discussion.
“It's what we have to do. In no other country have people died with the EU flag in their hands, as happened on the Maidan, what are we going to do, tell them no, that they were wrong betting on us? European position in favor of giving a yes without additional conditions to Kiev.
The idea of creating a new international forum, a European political community with other non-EU countries on the continent, championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel and former Italian Prime Minister and theoretician of the European construction, Enrico Letta, is raised by some capitals as a "realistic" alternative to Ukraine's accession to the EU. This, on the other hand, is the only perspective that Italy, Poland and the Baltic countries contemplate.
The European Commission is also not in favor of creating new structures to accommodate the pro-European aspirations of Ukraine and other neighboring countries. “Would Felipe González have settled for something other than joining the EU? If he had taken it, it is likely that Spain would still be there and not where it wanted to be, within the EU”, point out the aforementioned sources.
Von der Leyen traveled to Kiev on Saturday to show his support for the country. "I hope that in 20 years, when we look back, we can say that we did the right thing", said the president of the Commission, who stressed that the main challenge will be to leave the next European summit "with a united position that reflects the enormity of these historical decisions.
Northern European capitals are very reluctant to the idea. There are no express access routes and, despite the fact that the granting of the status of a candidate country to Ukraine is enormously symbolic, "the next day the lives of its citizens will not have changed at all," diplomatic sources from this part of the continent point out. His preference is to prepare a different offer to Kiev with more useful incentives in the short term. Zelensky has said that he will not accept anything other than candidate country status.
Von der Leyen's recommendation will place European leaders before an existential decision when they meet in Brussels next week to examine, among other issues, progress in the accession processes undertaken or claimed by neighboring countries. The Commission is leaning towards granting candidate country status to pro-European Moldova as well, and instead, in view of setbacks in the rule of law, leaving Georgia waiting, while increasing pressure on Bulgaria to give in and stop blocking the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and the prospects of the Balkans, where Moscow has not stopped eating land from the EU, are improving.
No decision, however, will be as symbolic as the one made regarding Ukraine's aspirations.