Senior EU official channels increasing gloom over Ukraine

10:25 19.11.2023 •

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

A European Union decision next month to launch membership talks with Ukraine is "at risk" and there is no agreement in the bloc to grant Kyiv a further 50 billion euros ($54 bln) in aid, a senior official said Reuters on Friday.

The downbeat comments chime with increasing fatigue in Ukraine, which has been struggling to push back against a Russian invasion since February 2022, and a more gloomy mood setting in among Kyiv's Western backers as the war drags on.

From regular reassurances that the EU would stand by Ukraine "as long as it takes", the official said latest discussions in the bloc over further support to Kyiv were a "reality check".

"Leaders... were realizing it's quite expensive," said the official, who is involved in preparing a Dec.14-15 summit in Brussels of the EU 27 member states' national leaders. "How do we pay for this?"

A proposal by the bloc's executive European Commission to revise the bloc's long-term budget to assign another 50 billion euros for Ukraine through 2027 was criticised from several sides, said the official.

The official said a recent budget ruling by the German constitutional court further tightened the room for maneuver for the bloc's biggest financial contributor. Germany refused to allocate 8 billion euros for this purpose.

"We cannot allow Ukraine to go bankrupt, it's not an option for us. But it's not easy," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss talks between EU leaders held behind closed doors.

The person further cast doubt on EU starting formal membership talks with Ukraine, saying expectations for a decision at the same summit next month were "at risk".

The official quoted as one reason Hungary's resistance potentially obstructing the unanimity necessary for such a move.

The person also said some EU leaders proposed to return to the topic in March, 2024, after the next assessment promised by the executive European Commission of whether Ukraine met the remaining conditions.

While Hungary was openly calling for a new EU strategy on war in Ukraine, the official said others in the bloc were also increasingly asking questions about the future of the war following failed hopes for Ukraine's counteroffensive.

"Maybe we have had too high expectations," said the official. "Will we continue to support Ukraine financially, military? Do we have the means to do this? Are we sure that the U.S. will be following us over the coming years?"

"It's not that people have been calling for peace. Individual members have said very clearly that we at some point need an end to this. The consensus is to continue to provide support to Ukraine, but some of those questions are coming."


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