April 23. 2024. 7:48

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EU not prepared to include country at war in EU, says former Commission chief Barroso

The European Union is not ready to accept the inclusion of a country at war, Former EU Commission President and former Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso warned on Tuesday, calling instead for an eventual understanding that would prevent the conflict in Ukraine from spreading.

“The most difficult question is this: the European Union (EU) is not prepared to include a country at war like the war in Ukraine because that would be to bring the war into the European Union. Sooner or later, we have to prepare for a possible agreement of understanding,” said Barroso.

“There’s an aggressor [Russia] and an aggressed country [Ukraine] – it’s not a symmetrical situation and, that being the case, what we need is peace. We haven’t reached that position yet, but this is very important. Otherwise, we’re giving [Vladimir] Putin reasons to prolong the war for years and years,” he added.

Barroso opened the conference on Ukraine’s EU accession process: “Accession of Ukraine to the European Union – what do we need for a successful enlargement”.

At the conference, Barroso stressed the importance of new political and diplomatic approaches.

“The problem is European because if Putin wins the war in Ukraine, it’s not just a defeat for the Ukrainians. It’s also a defeat for us [Europeans],” he said.

“When people ask me where the ‘European Army’ is, I say the Ukrainian Army. The Ukrainian Army is the ‘European Army’,” he declared, emphasising that he was speaking “personally”.

Last year, the European Council decided to accept the applications of Ukraine and Moldova and to open accession negotiations with them.

Barroso recalled that Ukraine wanted to join the EU after the “Orange Revolution” (2004/2005), but there was no consensus among member states, so an association agreement was proposed.

“During that period, I had contacts with President Putin. He never objected to Ukraine establishing an association agreement or even becoming part of the European Union. He made it very clear that he did not accept Ukraine joining NATO, as he emphasised in Bucharest in 2008,” he said.

But, in 2014, at the time of signing an association agreement, pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he could not sign because Russia would not allow it.

“Putin added that if it had been Russia’s regular forces, Kyiv ‘would be taken in less than two weeks’,” Barroso recounted.

“Seven days later, I reported the conversation to the Commission, and then it was leaked. The Kremlin didn’t like it. It didn’t deny it but claimed that I had referred to Putin’s words out of context,” he said.

The threat against Kyiv “was a manifestation of a secret desire that what he wanted was not just Crimea but the whole of Ukraine”, he considered.

“It was clear to me that Putin, emotionally and politically, didn’t accept the Ukrainian reality any more than Belarus, a country controlled by Moscow,” he said.

“Putin isn’t crazy, he’s dangerous and an autocrat, but he’s not irrational. He made a big mistake. He didn’t count on the determination of the Ukrainian people and the support of the European bloc and the United States. This is where we find ourselves. A full-scale war in the middle of Europe,” he added.

(Pedro Sousa Pereira, edited by Cristina Cardoso | Lusa.pt)

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