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Ukraine’s Zelensky admits some EU members don’t want Kiev to join bloc, denies he’s afraid to negotiate directly with Putin

Especially given the political leaders who came to power in Kiev after the 2013-14 Maidan uprising have spent years telling the Ukrainian public that the sacrifices made since then were to make EU accession possible. What’s more, promises of eventual EU membership were behind the original ‘EuroMaidan’ protests themselves. 

“Not all the EU member states want it [Ukraine in the EU], it is true, not all countries. It seems to me that they are not 100% confident in Ukraine,” he said in an interview with Euronews on Tuesday.

Bear in mind, Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, even enshrined Ukraine’s so-called ‘civilizational choice’ regarding future EU and NATO membership into its constitution. That law came into force in February of 2019, just before Zelensky routed him in the presidential election.

According to Zelensky, EU countries are afraid that relations with Russia would be damaged if Ukraine joins their association. “I think Europe is cautious about Russia, because Russia demonstrates that it doesn’t want Ukraine to be pro-European,” he claimed. “They have their own business going on [EU members and Moscow], their own relations.”

However, the real reason is likely Ukraine’s economic situation. The country of over 30 million people is now Europe’s poorest, measured by nominal per capita GDP, three times worse off than Bulgaria, currently the EU’s weakest financial link. Given the current fiscal reality in the EU – especially post-Brexit, without the substantial British contribution to its budget – it’s hard to see how the bloc could afford to subsidize Ukraine even if it wanted to bring Kiev on board.

Zelensky said the Ukrainian people need the EU to outline an honest view on the prospects of membership. “I think Ukrainians want to have a 100% clear position from Europe on Ukraine. I asked many European leaders to tell the Ukrainian people what they should do, step by step, to become a European Union member,” he explained.

“And when Ukrainians have this answer, they will be able to say how long it will take, whether they will be able to do that and when. We need clear understanding that we all want it now.

“I think we just have to become the country that Europe really would want. And then no one would have any doubts and it would be up to Ukraine to decide,” Zelensky added.

In the same interview, Zelensky dismissed notions that he’s fearful of engaging one-to-one with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a more experienced politician. “I am not afraid of the direct dialogue with Russia’s president. I think that is the right thing to do,” he said.

“If we have a possibility to talk and the results of those talks can help move forward toward ending the war [in the Donbass], it has to be done, no matter how different people or different regions react to this. If there is no dialogue, there will be no result.”

According to Zelensky, he spoke with his Russian counterpart before the declaration of a ceasefire between Kiev’s forces and Eastern Ukrainian militias last month. “We have discussed complicated issues of ceasefire regime compliance. So far, this dialogue brought results and we see that.”

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