Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Ukraine with a message of hope for a future in the EU | International


The kyiv that this Thursday has received three of the most powerful men in Europe bears little resemblance to what one might imagine as a country at war. Apart from the occasional siren, sandbags in front of few buildings and a curfew that reminds us that something exceptional is happening, some inhabitants of the Ukrainian capital seem given over to the pleasures of summer on packed terraces or walks with ice cream. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, arrived in this city this morning to bring a double message to President Volodímir Zelenski and to the entire country: the European dream is in the horizon, but before this is fulfilled, an agreement is necessary to end the war.

No one doubts that the path for Ukraine to become a full partner of the European Union will be long, and may even never be completed. But it is undeniable that Zelensky’s pro-European agenda is achieving an important political boost these days. First was last weekend’s visit to kyiv by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The trip this Thursday of the three leaders of the countries with the most weight in the EU will also mean a resounding support for the country.

But the most important appointment will be on Friday, when Brussels presents its proposal to grant Ukraine —and Moldova— the status of a candidate country to join the EU, probably accompanied by more or less costly conditions. Finally, it will be the European leaders who will have the last word at the summit to be held on June 23 and 24.

In kyiv, Macron, Scholz and Draghi will give unequivocal support to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. But Zelensky’s team fears that along with the carrot of offering a European horizon comes the stick of reminding Ukraine that, no matter how much it refuses to talk with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in the end it will have to do so. Macron already advanced it on Wednesday, visiting Romania. “When, I hope, Ukraine has won and the fighting is over, we will have to negotiate. The Ukrainian president and his team will have to negotiate with Russia,” he added. Despite clarifying that the moment for dialogue should come after the Ukrainian victory, some observers saw in these words an echo of those already pronounced by Macron himself about the need not to humiliate Moscow, statements that caused outrage not only in Ukraine but in many eastern EU countries.

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In Zelensky’s circle they fear that the three of Macron, Scholz and Draghi will try to convince him of the need to sit down to negotiate with the Russians to end a war that leaves more than 200 dead every day on the Ukrainian side alone. Which also threatens to derail the world economy, with reverberations in a world food crisis and unbridled growth of inflation. And that, as if all this were not enough, he begins to punish the European debt markets.

Faced with this discourse in favor of negotiations, it is difficult to find voices in Ukraine that defend making painful concessions to Putin in exchange for them to stop their weapons. “They are attacking us. We cannot accept any agreement that implies giving up territory. In three or four years Russia would attack us again. We are not thinking about now, but a generation from now, ”says a government adviser in kyiv who requests anonymity.

And all this debate coincides with Ukraine’s demand that the West send more, much more, weapons. Hanna Maliar, deputy defense minister, assured on Wednesday that her armed forces had only received 10% of the material they claimed, and that her army uses between 5,000 and 6,000 artillery shells every day, 10 times less than Russia. “No matter how professional our military is, we cannot win this war without the help of our partners,” she added. “Ukraine needs modern anti-missile systems. We made this request long before the Russian invasion began. These delays cannot be justified,” the president added on his Telegram channel on Wednesday.

While Zelenski was preparing on Wednesday to receive the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, kyiv launched a vote on-line to derussify the names of its streets, from the one dedicated to Moscow to that of the writer Anton Chekhov. Not even on the street is there a desire to make concessions to a country that has already chained 112 days of merciless attack.

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