Italian Prime Minister approves Ukraine’s EU candidacy
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi publicly endorsed Ukraine’s bid for EU membership on Tuesday, denouncing Moscow for its “expansionist aims” and praising Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.
In comments to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy after the Ukrainian leader addressed the Italian parliament via video, Draghi said Rome would support kyiv’s request to join the bloc, which it submitted four days after the start of the Russian attack.
“Today, Ukraine is not just defending itself,” Draghi said. “He defends our peace, our freedom, our security. It defends this multilateral order based on rules and rights that we have painstakingly built since the war.
“Italy wants Ukraine to join the EU,” he said. “I want to tell President Zelenskiy that Italy stands alongside Ukraine in this process.”
Draghi’s endorsement echoes demands from other mostly eastern EU members for Ukraine to join, but earlier this month the bloc’s leaders collectively refused to endorse Ukraine’s candidacy at a summit.
Path to EU membership
Mr Draghi did not specify a timetable for his accession campaign and acknowledged that the road to EU membership was “long”. He noted that membership required reforms to ensure “functional integration”, but said Italy – one of the EU’s founding members – was ready to support the effort.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is strongly opposed to Ukraine joining NATO, which he says would lead to nuclear war, but he has not commented recently on his aspirations to EU membership.
Asked about Mr Draghi’s comments, a spokesman for the European Commission said it was “working on it as much as possible” and would provide an update “as soon as possible”.
Ukraine’s bid for a quickly approved membership plan has divided EU members and bloc institutions. There is widespread unease at the idea of allowing Kyiv to circumvent a long list of standards and requirements that new members must meet – on issues ranging from rule of law to market economy – before even if his candidacy is scheduled for a vote by the EU. 27 existing members, who should approve it unanimously.
When Kyiv applied for membership on February 28, it received immediate support from several mostly eastern EU members, including Poland and the Baltic states. But others were more cautious. A summit of EU leaders earlier this month only recognized Ukraine’s “European aspirations” and expressed its willingness to “further strengthen our ties and deepen our partnership to help Ukraine pursue its European path.
Ukraine’s bid also poses tough questions about pending bids from Moldova and Georgia, which applied shortly after Ukraine, and five countries in membership talks. The EU’s newest member, Croatia, joined in 2013, a decade after it applied.
Mr. Draghi said: “When horror and violence seem to have the upper hand, it is precisely then that we must defend human and civil rights and democratic values. Ukraine has the right to be safe, free and democratic.
Earlier, Mr Zelenskiy called on the Italians to do everything possible to halt Russia’s devastating offensive in Ukraine.
“Italian people, now is the time to do everything in our power to ensure peace and end this war that Russia has been planning for a long time. Their goal is Europe. destroying your values, not just ours,” Zelenskiy said in a video address also broadcast live on Italian television.
Italy is traditionally one of the Western European countries with the closest ties to Russia. Some members of Mr. Draghi’s governing coalition have been open admirers of Putin.
However, the invasion sparked an outpouring of Italian support for the Ukrainians, while Italian authorities moved quickly to seize yachts and villas owned by Russian oligarchs on the EU sanctions list.
An estimated 60,000 war refugees have so far made their way to Italy, which already had one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Western Europe, with around 236,000 Ukrainian migrants living and working in the country. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022