Thu. Jan 20th, 2022


Your editorial remarks (“The EU’s regrettable absence on Ukraine”, FT View, 11 January) about the EU’s embarrassment and self-centered complaints about its exclusion from the top table talks between the US, NATO and Russia are completely fair and could have gone even further.

When I was European Commissioner for External Relations (1999 to 2004), one of my first meetings was with a Minister of Ukraine. After the usual pleasures, the Minister asked me directly whether the EU would accept Ukraine’s ambition to be a negotiating partner for membership.

I repeated the formula that was agreed upon and that we were all obliged to repeat for many years. This is probably still repeated today. I said that the EU accepted Ukraine’s European call, but I could not commit to opening negotiations for membership. My understanding of the hypocritical cavity of this verbal formula has increased over the years. But European history is nothing if not complex. Both EU officials present at the meeting as part of my team told me afterwards that they are the sons of families who lived and worked in what was once Poland, but has become Ukraine since the war and the changes of national borders. .

I believe the EU – with British leadership when we were members of the EU – should have strongly supported Ukraine’s desire to be a member of the EU itself, as opposed to the current ambiguous position taken on the question of whether Ukraine must be part of NATO.

The Russians would no doubt have opposed this, but it would clearly not have been their case. It should have been settled long ago, as it was for other Eastern European countries and the Baltic states.

Why on earth did we think that, say, Bulgaria is a more acceptable candidate for European membership than Ukraine?

Lord Patten van Barnes
House of Lords, London SW1, United Kingdom



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