Olaf Scholz hesitated for a long time, on the 113th day of the war the chancellor came to Kyiv. There are two air raid alarms during the visit. In the end, Scholz makes a promise. Is Ukraine happy with that?
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and French President Emmanuel Macron have for the first time campaigned for Ukraine to become a candidate for accession to the European Union.
Scholz said on Thursday during his long-awaited visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv: “My colleagues and I came to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family.” He added: “Germany is in favor of a positive decision in favor of Ukraine. This also applies to the Republic of Moldova.” The Chancellor did not make any concrete promises for further arms deliveries to Ukraine.
In addition to Macron, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis accompanied the Chancellor on this solidarity visit. Scholz, Macron and Draghi had traveled together by train at night. Iohannis had chosen a different route.
In the face of extensive demands for the delivery of heavy weapons, Scholz said: “We also support Ukraine with the delivery of weapons and we will continue to do so as long as Ukraine needs our support.” The Chancellor emphasized the country’s resistance to Russia: “Ukraine has been in a heroic defensive struggle against Russia for 113 days. The bravery of the soldiers is great. It is admirable how Ukrainians are defending themselves against the invasion of Russia.”
“Germany is helping us a lot here”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj paid tribute to Scholz’s visit. Weapons would be delivered, including those requested. “Germany is helping us a lot here,” he said. “Yes, I am convinced that the entire German people support Ukraine.” Macron announced the delivery of more Caesar howitzers for Ukraine.
Scholz: accession status a milestone
Scholz called the status of an EU accession candidate a milestone on Ukraine’s “European path, which is full of prerequisites”. At the EU summit on June 23 and 24, he will campaign for a unified position – unanimity is required for the decision. Macron said: “In any case, we support Ukraine’s accession status to the European Union.”
Zelenskyj: EU candidate status historic decision
On the 113th day of the war, Zelenskyj welcomed his guests’ confession: “EU candidate status could be a historic decision for Europe.” Ukraine applied for membership shortly after Russia attacked on February 24.
Macron’s clear statement on EU candidate status is all the more important given that France currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Draghi said at the joint press conference: «President Zelenskyy understood that the candidate status is a way and not yet the goal. A path on which profound reforms are needed in Ukrainian society.”
The EU Commission is expected to make a proposal in Brussels on Friday to give Ukraine clear accession prospects. Accession negotiations are complicated and usually take years.
Chancellor: keep promises to Western Balkans
Scholz spoke out in favor of bringing the Western Balkan countries closer to the EU. “It is a question of European credibility that we are finally keeping our promise to the countries of the Western Balkans, which have been on this path for years, now and in concrete terms,” he said. The EU must prepare for this development and modernize its structures and procedures.
Draghi suggested a rethinking of the negotiations, especially with the Balkan states: “We all know that this is a historic development for Europe that requires in-depth considerations.”
Shortly after the quartet’s arrival, an air raid alarm was raised in the Ukrainian capital, which was lifted a good 30 minutes later. In the afternoon when meeting Zelenskyj, the sirens wailed again.
Scholz in Irpin
After his arrival, Scholz visited the partially destroyed Kiev suburb of Irpin. Similar to neighboring Bucha, almost 300 civilians, some of whom were executed, were found there after the Russians retreated at the end of March. Scholz condemned the “brutality” of the Russian war of aggression and spoke of senseless violence.
Iohannis again demanded that atrocities committed by Russia be brought before an international criminal court. Draghi believes Ukraine is capable of comprehensive reconstruction. “This is a place of destruction, but also of hope,” Draghi said in Irpin.
In a first reaction, Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev tried to downplay the visit. The politicians would have to travel by train like they did 100 years ago and held out the prospect of EU membership and “old howitzers” for Ukraine, said Medvedev, who is deputy chairman of the Security Council. ‘It’s all good. But it won’t bring Ukraine any closer to peace.”
Russia continues to reduce gas supplies
Parallel to Scholz’s visit to Kyiv, the Russian energy giant Gazprom further reduced its gas deliveries to Germany through the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline on Thursday night, as announced. Russia also did not rule out a complete shutdown of the most important supply line for Germany. Gazprom justified the reductions with delays in repair work. Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens), on the other hand, suspects a political decision behind it.
Numerous heads of state and government have traveled to Ukraine since mid-March. However, the visit of Scholz, Macron and Draghi was particularly important: They represent the three most populous and economically strong EU countries. The three states belong to the G7, in which democratic economic powers have come together. Germany currently chairs this group. Selenskyj had invited Scholz to Kyiv weeks ago. At first, however, there was resentment because of the short-term cancellation of a trip by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier from the Ukrainian side.