Exclusive Interview: Catherine Colonna On Europe & Foreign Affairs

1/As the NATO summit will be held very soon in Vilnius and Ukraine and many allies have high expectations regarding Ukraine’s acceptance into the Alliance, I would like you to say what is the position of Paris regarding the rapid accession of Ukraine to NATO? What would be the obstacles?

Ukraine will be at the heart of the Vilnius summit. At a time when the Ukrainians are leading a counter-offensive on the ground, with courage and determination that command admiration, we must send a strong political signal that the support of the Allies is a long-term one. The challenge is twofold: in the short term, we must ensure that Ukraine has the necessary means to ensure its self-defence. And in the longer term, we want to build Ukrainian capabilities robustly enough to deter further aggression by Russia.

A significant part of the discussions that we will conduct with our partners in Vilnius will thus be devoted to giving substance to the prospect of Ukraine’s membership of NATO, recognized since 2008. In line with the decisions taken at the Madrid Summit last July, we will further strengthen the partnership between NATO and Ukraine, which it must be remembered is one of the strongest to date. Our objective is clear: to make concrete progress in Ukraine’s interoperability with NATO and to support it in a tangible way in its Euro-Atlantic integration.

Ukraine is now closer to NATO than it has ever been, which is one of Vladimir Putin’s main failures. It is becoming increasingly clear to the Allies that, when the time comes, it will not need to go through a Membership Action Plan to join NATO. Membership is, for France, a real prospect, as was decided in 2008 in Bucharest.

2/ On the subject of security guarantees for Ukraine, which is the subject of many discussions, what is France’s point of view on this question? Is your country, as a nuclear power and a member of the Security Council, ready to give Ukraine security guarantees and if so what kind?

France is, like several of its partners, prepared to grant tangible and credible security guarantees to Ukraine, in order to give it the means, in particular in terms of equipment, to defend itself against the aggression of which it is the victim and to to prevent any future aggression. This for an obvious reason: today, Ukraine protects Europe, and provides it with de facto security guarantees. This subject is being discussed with our partners and will be at the heart of the signal given in Vilnius. This was also the subject of the last European Council which made it possible to reconfirm European support for Ukraine for as long as necessary and marked the commitment of its Member States to contribute to these security guarantees.

3/ What does the victory of Ukraine in the war launched by Russia mean for France? Does this include the return to Ukraine of Crimea illegally annexed in 2014?

The war of Russian aggression in Ukraine cannot and should not end with a victory for Russia. We will never accept the legitimization of the illegal use of force, because it is a violation of the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter but also a questioning of the rules that have defined our collective security since the end of World War II. By attacking Ukraine in violation of all its international commitments, Russia calls into question these principles which guarantee the stability of the international order based on respect for the sovereignty of States. For as long as necessary, with all of our partners, we will defend these principles. This is the heart of our commitment alongside Ukraine.

The brutal war waged by Russia for 500 days is the continuation of what began in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass. These territories are part of the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.

The victory of Ukraine will therefore first be the failure of this aggression, with the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territories of Ukraine within its borders recognized since 1991, and thus the restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Then, as the President of the Republic has clearly reminded, it will be up to the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainians alone, to determine the conditions of victory. If the end of the conflict requires peace negotiations, the Ukrainians alone will decide the modalities of these negotiations. As long as necessary, we will be at their side, with our allies and our European partners, and we will support them with all our might.

Have French politicians understood that Ukraine is defending its allies against an aggression that could occur if Ukraine did not oppose Russian pressure?

For 500 days, Ukrainians have been defending themselves courageously. They first defend their territory, but they also contribute to the security of the entire European continent. The French people know it.

From the first day of the war, Europeans have been united in support of Ukraine. This commitment is still just as strong 500 days after the start of the Russian aggression: we have helped Ukraine to the tune of 67 billion euros in aid, including 14 billion euros for military support, we We have harshly punished Russia for hampering its war effort, we have provided emergency aid and welcomed many refugees fleeing the bombardments and the desolation of which Russia is guilty every day.

All of this shows that France, like its European partners, is deeply united. It also shows that we immediately understood that it was not just about Ukraine’s security. What is at stake today is the future of European societies and the possibility for all citizens of this continent to live in peace.

Russia should have no doubt that we will stand by Ukraine for as long as necessary. We will defend, as long as it is threatened by imperialist inclinations, whatever they may be, the right of peoples to live in peace, freedom and sovereignty in their country.

5) We know that France has gradually become the support of Ukraine and Moldova for joining the European Union. Who do you think is most likely to join the EU first? How satisfied are you personally with the pace at which Ukraine is fulfilling its obligations?

The future of Ukraine is unquestionably linked to the European family. Since the start of the process, France has supported this perspective. You remember that it was under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union that Ukraine was recognized as a candidate country.

In the same way, France continues to support in a way the European trajectory of Moldova which recently experienced tremendous success with the organization in Chisinau of the 2nd summit of the European political community. On this occasion, as you know, we agreed on the reduction of roaming charges between Moldova and the European Union from 1 January 2024: this is a very concrete decision which shows that Moldova is doing and will part of the European family. It is in this spirit that we also hosted the third ministerial conference of the support platform for Moldova in Paris last November. We will continue to defend this country against the destabilizing consequences of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.

Ukraine and Moldova are engaged in a process of joining the European Union, which is a long and demanding process, involving major reforms. The two countries have their own characteristics and merits, but share the same desire to move forward in order to offer their populations the future to which they aspire. France will therefore support them all along the way.

This article is originally published on diplomatie.gouv.fr

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