Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron and Mario Draghi visiting Ukraine: real symbol or domestic policy?

Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron, and Mario Draghi visiting Ukraine: real symbol or domestic policy?

The leaders of Germany, France, and Italy are heading to the Ukrainian capital on Thursday (June 16) to pledge their support for the war-torn country, hoping to assuage growing discontent over their support shy.

However, analysts warn that the visit, which comes as Brussels prepares to deliver its verdict on Kyiv’s EU bid, has domestic political underpinnings and is unlikely to alter the substance of policies. of Berlin, Paris, and Rome about Ukraine.

While the visit of Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron, and Mario Draghi has not yet been officially confirmed, multiple sources indicate that they are traveling to Kyiv to discuss Ukraine’s EU bid and additional financial and military support.

A photo published Thursday (June 15) morning by the Italian press agency RAI showing the three leaders in a train compartment seems to confirm this information.

Both Germany and France have come under increasing criticism in recent weeks, with several Ukrainian officials saying the EU’s two largest member states were not doing enough to support kyiv’s efforts to fend off the coronavirus crisis. Russian invasion and that they were too reluctant to cut ties with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already pointed out that”we must not try to find a balance between Ukraine and relations with Russia”he told German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday.

However, if the three heads of state try to show their unwavering support for Ukraine, this visit is unlikely to mark a change of course.

“I think it is more a form of symbolic politics that the three most cautious and hesitant heads of state in terms of arms deliveries and relations with Russia are now going to Ukraine”Stefan Meister, head of the International order and democracy program at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), told EURACTIV.

The choice of the date of this visit is not a coincidence, since the European Commission must announce on Friday whether it proposes to grant Ukraine the status of candidate to the EU.

However, there are also domestic political reasons for this visit.

The pressure is particularly strong on Mr Scholz, who has already refused to travel to Ukraine because he does not want to go there “for a quick round trip with a photo opportunity”he said in May.

However, it has since been further caught in the crossfire, as it failed to deliver the heavy weaponry it promised a month ago to Ukraine and has come under increasing criticism from Ukrainian officials. because of his hesitation.

In France, on the other hand, the visit comes just days before Sunday’s second round of legislative elections, where Mr Macron intends to defend his majority in the National Assembly against the left-wing alliance NUPES, which has managed to gather support growing in recent weeks.

Encourage peace negotiations?

If the prospect of additional financial and military support and Ukraine’s EU candidate status should be at the top of the agenda, it is highly likely that the leaders of the largest EU countries will also discuss possible peace negotiations with Russia.

President Emmanuel Macron has been particularly outspoken about this. He pointed out at the beginning of June that the West “must not humiliate Russia”which drew widespread criticism in Ukraine.

Mr Macron reiterated this position on Wednesday (June 15) during a visit to Romania and Moldova, where he stressed that “The Ukrainian president, and his leaders, will have to negotiate with Russia. »

While Mr Scholz has refrained from publicly advocating for peace negotiations, Russia expert Stefan Meister said France and Germany had “similar positions on the issue”.

“I think the visit will also aim to explore what is possible in terms of a ceasefire and Ukraine’s position in this regard”Mr. Meister said.

Preference for “peace” or “justice”?

In addition, new polls published on Wednesday by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) could indicate that the German and French leaders have taken the temperature of their respective populations.

In all the countries surveyed, with the exception of Poland and the United Kingdom, the camp of the ” peace “ was predominant among European voters (35%), who therefore want an end to the war as soon as possible, while only 22% believe that only a clear defeat of Russia can bring peace.

These figures are even higher in Italy, Germany and France, where 52%, 49% and 41% of respondents, respectively, want immediate peace, even if it means Ukrainian concessions to Russia.

Only 16%, 19% and 20% believe that only Russia’s defeat can bring peace.

At the same time, Ukraine has already rejected the idea of ​​a possible peace plan negotiated by France and Germany, as was the case with the Minsk agreements which helped to freeze the conflict in Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 .

“I fear they are trying to reach a Minsk III agreement”told Picture the main adviser to Mr. Zelensky, Oleksiy Arestovych.

“They will say that we must stop the war which causes food and economic problems”did he declare.

For Mr. Arestovitch, such an option is not possible. Vladimir Putin killed people in Bucharest, “and the West says we have to save face”.

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