French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune says a bid by Ukraine to join the European Union would take at least 15 to 20 years to be finalized, dashing Kiev’s hopes of quickly gaining the bloc’s membership following Russia’s offensive against the former Soviet state.
"We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you're lying," Beaune told France’s Radio J. on Sunday, adding, "It's probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time."
"I don't want to offer Ukrainians any illusions or lies," he said, reiterating French President Emmanuel Macron’s offer to create a looser "European political community" that could help integrate Ukraine with the EU sooner.
In a speech to the EU's parliament in Strasbourg on May 10, Macron said it will take decades for Ukraine to be accepted into the EU, instead suggesting that Kiev could join a "parallel European community" while it awaited a decision.
That offer has received a cold welcome from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who on Saturday denounced "such compromises" and insisted on an immediate start of the process towards full EU membership.
Beaune further explained that Macron's proposal is not "an alternative to joining the European political community, stressing that “It doesn't prevent membership later on."
Under Macron's plan, "there could be free circulation in Europe, and it could benefit from the European budget for reconstruction and the revival of its country, society and economy," he said.
Macron's "European political community" initiative will be debated at an EU summit in late June.
Other EU leaders have also dashed Kiev’s demand for an accelerated membership of the bloc over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with leaders declining to open a membership procedure at the time of war.
Russia launched the military operation in Ukraine on February 24, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Western countries have responded to the Russian military operation by backing Ukraine with cash and heavy weaponry while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that such a flow of weapons to Kiev will only prolong the war, which is now into its third month.
The conflict in Ukraine has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 13 million, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Russia has vowed to end the operation once its “security demands” are met. The list of demands includes provision of security for Russia’s interests in Ukraine and prevention of the ex-Soviet republic’s admission into the Western military alliance of NATO.