President Duda of Poland said yesterday that he would not rest until Ukraine became a member of the European Union, despite France warning that the process could take 20 years.
On a surprise visit to Kyiv, Duda was speaking to the Ukrainian parliament as the first foreign leader to address it in person since Russia invaded on February 24. He was given a standing ovation.
“Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin’s demands. Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future,” Duda told the Verkhovna Rada, the single-chamber assembly.
He said that the international community must demand that Russia completely withdraws from Ukrainian territory. “If Ukraine is sacrificed for … economic reasons or political ambitions, even a centimetre of its territory, it will be a huge blow not only for the Ukrainian nation but for the entire western world,” he added.
Duda, whose country has taken in 3.5 million people fleeing Ukraine, also supported Ukraine’s rapid accession to the EU despite France, Germany and other key states refusing to consider any fast-track approach to bypass the bloc’s entrance qualifications.
“I will not rest until Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union,” Duda said.
As he spoke, France reiterated its opposition to speedy membership. Clément Beaune, its Europe minister, told Radio J: “If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying. It’s probably in 15 or 20 years. It takes a long time.” President Zelensky has criticised President Macron twice this month over what he said were demands that Ukraine make concessions to enable President Putin to save face. “We want the Russian army to leave our land,” Zelensky said ten days ago. “We won’t help Putin save face by paying with our territory. That would be unjust.”
On Saturday he rejected a proposal by Macron that Ukraine be invited to join a broad “associated” community alongside the EU that could also include Britain and the Balkan applicant states. “We don’t need such compromises,” Zelensky said in Kyiv during a visit by Antonio Costa, the Portuguese prime minister. “Believe me, it will not be a compromise with Ukraine in Europe. It will be another compromise between Europe and Russia,” he said.
The Polish president visited Kyiv for talks with Zelensky in April, along with the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. At the end of his speech yesterday, Russian missiles struck Kyiv.
Duda paid tribute to Ukraine and said his country welcomed the refugees it had taken in. “Dear Ukrainians, your relatives — wives, parents, children — who were forced to leave for Poland are not refugees in our country, they are our guests,” he said. “Despite the great destruction, despite the terrible crime and great suffering that the Ukrainian people suffered every day, the Russian invaders did not break you. They failed at it. And I believe deeply that they will never succeed. I want to say it with all my might: the free world has the face of Ukraine today.”