Not only is Ukraine risking its survival and future in the battle against the Russian invader, but also the EU sees its very existence threatened. Nineteen months after the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion and as certain tensions within the EU begin to become visible, the High Representative for Foreign and Defense Policy, Josep Borrell, has pledged in Kiev that European support will continue to arrive. And it will do so regardless of what happens in the counteroffensive of Kiev's troops.
"The European Union, all of us, are facing an existential threat," he warned this Sunday in Kiev in a conversation with EL PAÍS. The message from Borrell, who has met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and several ministers, is not only towards Ukraine. It is also aimed at the Kremlin, which has just launched another wave of recruitments and is already preparing to intensify its aggression this winter. "The support of the EU does not depend on progress on the battlefield," said the head of European diplomacy.
The fear that the war will become entrenched and Ukraine will begin to lose support is real. Borrell has been concerned about the agreement in the US between Democrats and Republicans, who to avoid a closure of the federal government have agreed on a temporary budget law that leaves out aid to Ukraine. "We are surprised by the last-minute decision, which we have to regret greatly," the EU's high representative for foreign policy told a media meeting in the Ukrainian capital. "Let's hope it's not the last word," he said.
Support not contingent on Washington
European support, Borrell insisted, is not contingent on the US. Brussels hopes to push through a new package of 20 billion euros for military aid until 000. This plan is part of the EU's long-term security commitments for Ukraine and would involve 2027,5 million euros a year for weapons and ammunition, one of the topics that will be on the table of the foreign ministers of the Twenty-seven in an extremely symbolic and historic meeting to be held soon in the invaded country.
All this is happening at the gates of a winter that is expected to be complicated and weeks before the European Commission publishes the report in which it will give an account of the progress of Ukraine (and other candidates) in the reforms it needs not only to join the community club, but to open accession talks. Zelenskiy's government hopes to get those negotiations opened this year. It will be a political decision like granting the status of candidate country to the EU. But Brussels insists there can be no shortcuts. Ukraine must move forward with measures to ensure respect for the rule of law, for example.
"It is a challenge, the work to be done in that process of adaptation is great," Borrell told this newspaper during a short walk through the historic center of Kiev, next to several destroyed Russian tanks, which have become a symbol of resistance to the aggressor. "The EU has opted for Ukraine as a member of the community family and that is the best contribution to the commitments of security, participation in the economic circuits of the Western world and the inclusion of Ukraine to the west," says the head of European diplomacy who met this Sunday in Kiev – which has arrived after visiting Odessa and its port, attacked in recent days by Russia — with the new Ukrainian Defense Minister, Rustem Umerov.
Borrell's visit comes at a key moment, prior to the summit in Granada, where on Friday the leaders of the Twenty-seven will talk about enlargement after meeting on Thursday with the heads of State and Government of the candidate countries at the meeting of the European Political Community. Also when some fissures within the community support have become visible by the crisis of Ukrainian grain that reaches the EU without tariffs and that Poland and Slovakia have blocked. Ukraine fears that the iron unity that the Union has maintained to support it will suffer.
The political landscape is challenging for Kiev, moreover, with U.S. presidential elections next year and what could be another Moscow submarine (as some consider Viktor Orban's Hungary) in Slovakia, where pro-Russian populist Robert Fico has won a majority in Saturday's election. Faced with the ghosts of these cracks in unity, Borrell notes that, since the beginning of the war, the EU has approved 11 packages of sanctions against Russia unanimously, including reluctant member states such as Hungary. "The Europeans have shown enormous unity and they have shown it to Russia and will continue to show it. The EU will not only continue to give sustained support to Ukraine, but will increase it," he adds.
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