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France details its proposed EU halfway house for Ukraine

France has laid out its proposal for a “European Political Community,” first floated by President Emmanuel Macron as a middle ground membership for Ukraine in May, in a memo EU ambassadors are due to discuss Wednesday.

Ukraine’s path to EU accession will be long and therefore isn’t what the country needs right now as it faces down Russia’s war, even though Kyiv has “legitimate aspirations” to join the bloc eventually, argues the French document, which was obtained by POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook.

The discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of EU ambassadors comes at a highly sensitive time, as the bloc’s leaders prepare to consider granting Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia EU candidate status at a European Council summit next week. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, but is due to hand over to the Czech Republic at the end of the month.

EU candidate status “does not today offer the necessary political framework to respond to the urgent historical and geopolitical needs arising from the war against Ukraine,” according to the French document, also called a “non-paper.”

The proposed European Political Community “would be open to European states that share a common set of democratic values … regardless of the nature of their current relationship with the European Union: whether they wish to join it, have left it, do not plan to join it, or are linked to it only by economic agreements,” the paper notes, opening the door to the United Kingdom, which has left the EU.

Macron first pitched his idea for a European “community” on May 9 in Strasbourg, offering little detail on what it would entail. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba responded to the idea with skepticism, saying: “No alternatives to European integration of Ukraine will be acceptable.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he’s aware enlargement will take time, but that granting Ukraine candidate status would provide an invaluable morale boost to his country.

Participation in the proposed European Political Community would not prevent Ukraine from being an EU candidate, Paris said.

Macron is currently on a visit to Moldova, where he is expected to discuss the idea with President Maia Sandu.

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