Ukraine’s accession to the EU, “madness”? What is hidden behind the official speeches – L’Express

a support conference for kyiv organized in Paris this Monday

Did you like the debate on Turkey’s entry into the European Union? You will love the one on Ukraine’s accession. Officially, France’s position is clear. Emmanuel Macron recalled in December that Paris supports the opening of accession negotiations for Ukraine, a “logical, fair and necessary” decision. But beyond the superficial remarks, which the international situation almost obliges to keep in solidarity with kyiv attacked by Russia, the subject is a real time bomb.

It is one of the pillars of the Attal government who confides, under the seal of anonymity: “Ukraine has no place in the European Union. We are making the same mistake as with Turkey. “It would be a mistake that would kill the EU. Integrating the world’s leading grain producer would be madness.”

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At the end of March, the President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, was in Ukraine. When she addresses the Ukrainian parliament, she is struck by the number of European flags flying in the room. “This accession project is of great benefit to the country, which is making the efforts and really playing the game to enter the EU,” she notes.

Appearing to let go of kyiv is not an option for the presidential majority, which finds itself embroiled in an uncertain adventure in the middle of the electoral campaign. The head of the Renaissance list, Valérie Hayer, shows zeal by proposing to grant, as a first sign of encouragement, observer status to Ukrainian legislators in the European Parliament “as soon as possible”: “We must not wait until “Official observer status be granted to seriously begin working together.”

A member of the majority tempers this enthusiasm: “We must affirm the need for Ukraine to join the European Union, but only to make it an element of negotiation with Vladimir Putin at the end of the conflict. Show our attachment to this decision today, to enhance our concession by giving it up tomorrow.” This shows that the subject is a matter of conscience in Macronie. An outgoing MEP weighs the pros and cons: “Contemporarily, we must help Ukraine. Structurally, Ukraine’s accession changes everything. Should we provide a conjunctural response to a structural question? Without war, we cannot the question of membership would not even arise.” History requires us to adapt, suggests the same elected official: “If Putin wins and he controls world cereal production; if Ukraine enters the EU and that shakes up Europe. What is better ?” Yaël Braun-Pivet also agrees: since this accession would have a “huge impact” on European construction, it could only be the arrival of an additional country and would require a fundamental reorganization of Europe.

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But enlargement is not, is no longer, a popular theme. “We are nostalgic for the Europe of 12,” points out Jean-Noël Barrot, the Minister Delegate for European Affairs. “The RN will tell us ‘You liked the Polish plumber, you will like the Ukrainian farmer’, warns Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, campaign director of the Hayer list. But enlargement is justified by the geopolitical context.” “We must take responsibility for this process,” adds MP Robin Reda. “We often talk about building a Europe of nations and peace in addition to a simply economic Europe. This is justified. We are not in a purely economic enlargement as we could do with the former Eastern Europe, but in an enlargement which gives new meaning to the European peace project.”

Turkey’s precedent

Except that launching a process is never neutral and then breaking away from it is always complicated. The precedent of Turkey has marked the French political scene, and in particular the right, which has fractured on the issue. Between 2004 (when the members of the EU decided to open accession negotiations) and the 2007 presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy clearly dissociated himself from the orientations then driven by President Jacques Chirac, tireless defender of Turkey’s entry . During his electoral campaign, Sarkozy even made this hostility a recurring theme. But after his victory, as he is not alone at the European table, he is forced to moderate his position. In August 2007, before the ambassadors, he declared: “France will not oppose new chapters of negotiation between the European Union and Turkey being opened in the months and years to come provided that these chapters be compatible with the two possible visions of the future of their relations: either membership, or association as close as possible, without going as far as membership.” Today, negotiations between Turkey and the EU are frozen.

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Is it because he remembers the Turkish episode? Nicolas Sarkozy believes today that Ukrainian neutrality goes hand in hand with the country’s non-membership in the European Union. “Ukraine is a link between the West and the East. It must remain so,” said the former president to Figaro during the summer of 2023, describing Ukraine’s status as a candidate country for the EU as “fallacious promises”.

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The dividing line fractures the political spectrum. On the one hand, François-Xavier Bellamy (LR) also speaks of a “false promise”, Jordan Bardella (RN) of a “red line”. On the other hand, Raphaël Glucksmann (PS) shows his support for membership, while emphasizing that by then, the laws and the minimum wage in Ukraine on the one hand, and the CAP in Europe on the other will have evolved. Are campaigns the right time to advance thinking and pedagogy or do they offer a bonus for demagoguery? The debate deserves in any case to find its place in the campaign, especially since opinion is more divided than it seems. According to a CSA survey for Europe 1, CNews and The Sunday Journal carried out in February, kyiv’s entry into the EU would be considered a bad thing for France by 43% of French people, while 39% of respondents would see it as a positive signal for our country (18% do not comment) . According to a Euronews/Ipsos survey carried out in March among 26,000 people from 18 member states, 45% of EU voters are in favor of Ukraine’s membership, while 35% are opposed and 20% are undecided.