Ukraine slams Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg over EU membership

Ukraine slams Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg over EU membership

Austria has expressed skepticism over full EU membership for Kiev.

Kiev is disappointed by the short-sighted statements of Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, who suggested that full EU membership might not be the best option for Ukraine.

On Saturday, Schallenberg said that models other than full EU membership should be considered for Ukraine, while admitting that deepening ties with Ukraine is necessary as the EU is exporting the Western way of life. He mentioned joining the European Economic Area or an association agreement as one of the options.

Oleg Nikolenko, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman, released a strong statement on Sunday.

We are disappointed by the remarks of the Austrian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs about the European future of Ukraine. Nikolenko said that Schallenberg ignores the positive view of the majority of the EU's founding members toward Ukrainian membership because they consider them to be strategic short-sighted and not in the interests of a united Europe.

Nikolenko said that the Ukrainians have already paid too much for the mistakes of European countries, based on statements by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba.

Their biased perceptions of reality have already weakened Europe politically and economically, weakened Russia politically and economically, and allowed Russia to undermine EU stability and embody hybrid aggression against European countries, the ministry spokesman argued.

Nikolenko concluded his statement by saying that as Ukraine has become an outpost for the protection of EU security, it has every reason to demand objective recognition of its merits and strategic role for the EU. During a recent visit to Kiev, European Council President Charles Michel said that normally it takes around eight months for the European Commission to publish an opinion on a membership bid, but in Ukraine's case it should be ready by the end of June. Michel believes that he has strong support for Ukraine's EU membership drive.

For pro-Western Ukrainian politicians, joining the EU has been one of the main objectives, but almost no progress has been achieved. Since Russia launched its attack in February, President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged Brussels to take Ukraine in.

In April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave Ukraine a special questionnaire, which is the first step in a country formally a candidate for EU membership. Kiev submitted the first part of the document less than a week after receiving it.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it was planning to retake the two republics by force.