NEW DELHI: An assembly of the European Union (EU) leaders in the French city of Versailles expressed hesitance in granting immediate membership of the bloc to Ukraine, but said that it will continue to send aid to people fleeing the war in the besieged nation.
The two-day unofficial summit that started on March 10 was attended by 27 head of states in the city where the historic Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 following the first world-war.
The EU leaders appreciated the Ukrainians for their courage and zeal to protect their country in face of the Russian invasion, a joint statement by the participants said, adding that the EU and separately its members will continue to send humanitarian, financial and medical aid to the Ukrainians who left their country for neighbourhood states to escape the war.
“We will not leave them alone,” the release reads.
A majority of the members, however, said the immediate membership of the EU to Ukraine was not on the cards.
“There is no such thing as a fast track,” Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte reportedly said at the summit even as EU Council president Charles Michel stressed that Ukraine “belongs to the European Family”.
The leaders held Russia and its ally Belarus responsible for the military attack and indiscriminately killing civilians in Ukraine. They appreciated the decision of the International Criminal Court for probing the military attack and stressed on the importance of securing the nuclear facility in Ukraine. In the summit, Spain called Russia’s act a “war crime”.
In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said “agriculture, health, technology and sovereignty” were among the agenda items of the summit.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine underlines even more the importance of the EU having strong economic foundations. A resilient and future-proof European economy is essential to the prosperity, security and wellbeing of everyone in the Netherlands and Europe,” Netherlands PM Mark Rutte tweeted.
The EU has arranged funds through the Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE) and the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (ReactEU) for the Ukrainians and the escapees from Ukraine.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said: “Russia took the decision to launch a war against Ukraine. We took Russia by surprise because we were firm, strong and united. We need to identify together the steps to reach a ceasefire as soon as possible and have real negotiations for a peace agreement.”
A string of agendas ranging from bolstering defence capabilities to reducing dependency on Russia for coal, gas and oil are expected to be discussed on the concluding day of the summit today.
This huddle of the European leaders comes a fortnight after Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine, a former Soviet state. The war has posed several challenges before the bloc including a possible energy stress, looming security and migration crisis, and the possibility of a severe economic crisis.
Russian gas accounts for around 40 per cent of gas supplies to the EU states.