The European People’s Party, the European Parliament’s largest political group, adopted a declaration calling on NATO to lay the foundations for Ukraine’s long-term membership of NATO.
Ukraine’s accession to NATO has been a sensitive issue within the defense alliance for some time. While the Ukrainian side has the will to become a member, integration poses significant risks. Back in 2008, at the Bucharest Summit, NATO made a “vague” promise that Ukraine would eventually join the alliance.
The protracted Russia-Ukraine war since last year has brought the issue back on the table, but it continues to raise tensions between member states.
In the declaration adopted, the EPP said that a timetable for Ukraine’s accession to NATO should be prepared for the approaching summits in Vilnius and Washington so that it can start as soon as the war is over and be completed as soon as possible.
“The group believes this is necessary because Ukraine’s accession to the EU would strengthen the alliance and represent a further step toward peace in Europe,” the declaration said.
The dividing line within NATO is not even whether Ukraine should join at all, as there is a consensus that NATO should not admit a belligerent nation. Rather, the difference is over whether the alliance should be more specific about its membership pledge and what the relationship with Ukraine should be at this stage.
The question of accession dates back to September last year when Ukraine asked for fast-track accession to NATO. As the allies prepare for the summit in Lithuania in June, Ukraine is trying to put as much pressure as it can on them to make a concrete gesture in Vilnius to bring Kyiv closer to membership.
The words of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, however, are not exactly encouraging to NATO countries, as he has unilaterally stated that NATO must make a political decision on the timetable for Ukraine’s accession, either in Vilnius or by the end of the year at the latest.