France says Ukraine will need ’15 or 20 years’ to join EU

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said Ukraine’s EU accession process will take a very long time, possibly up to 15 or 20 years.

“If we say that Ukraine will join the European Union (EU) in six months, one year, two years, we are lying. That’s not true,” Mr Beaune told radio station Jewish Community Radio J 15 or 20 Years. Whatever happens, it will be a very long process.”

The French minister said President Emmanuel Macron’s recent proposal to create a new European political community outside the EU, including Ukraine, was “no alternative” to EU membership. Ukraine is in the EU and will not “prevent Ukraine from becoming an EU member in the future”.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune.  Photo: AFP.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune. Picture: AFP.

“This is a complementary project for the EU, which can offer a concrete political alternative for countries that are not EU-centric but want to move closer to the Union,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a speech on May 21 that any proposal to replace Ukraine’s accession to the EU would be like an act of “compromise” with Russia.

Polish President Andrzej Duda told Ukraine’s parliament on the same day that he would continue to support efforts for the country’s EU membership. “I will not rest until Ukraine becomes a member of the EU,” he said.

Ukraine signed an application to join the EU in late February, shortly after Russia launched a military campaign in the country. Last month they completed an EU membership questionnaire, the first step in being considered for membership by the bloc. President Zelenskyy repeatedly called on the EU to allow Ukraine’s speedy accession under what he called a “new special procedure”, but did not elaborate.

According to experts, EU accession has important implications for future negotiations between Ukraine and Russia to end the conflict. EU membership could provide Ukraine with military support, as EU countries are bound by a mutual defense treaty and ask other members for help when a country “faces armed attacks” on its territory.

In addition, joining the bloc would also benefit Ukraine’s economy and bring other additional benefits to Kyiv, such as freedom of movement throughout the bloc and a range of privileges exclusively granted to EU citizens.

The EU has sent millions of euros in aid and arms to Ukraine, while EU member states have also taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine. However, the EU accession process often takes years, and the bloc is unlikely to change the rules to allow Ukraine to join quickly.

Vu Hoang (Corresponding CNN)