The West must accommodate Kiev’s membership aspirations to prove it’s not “afraid of itself,” the Ukrainian president has said FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. © Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Western nations must accelerate Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO or Russian President Vladimir Putin will consider them weak, Vladimir Zelensky has claimed.

Kiev is hoping to join both the European Union and the US-led military bloc, and has been promised eventual membership in both. Zelensky reiterated his case for preferential treatment on Thursday during a joint press conference with Andrzej Duda and Gitanas Nauseda, his counterparts from Poland and Lithuania respectively.

European unity demands that the EU proves that it’s “not afraid of itself,” and NATO is “not afraid of its own rules,” the Ukrainian president declared. In both organizations, an objection by a single member vetoes a nation’s candidacy. But in Zelensky’s view, the rules dictate that “every democratic nation in Europe… deserves to be a member of the EU and NATO.”

“This fact needs to be proven by real action. June is the right time to start factual negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU,” he said. “Europe needs to signal its strength, so that Putin is not tempted to believe that Europe is showing weakness.”

EU cannot give Ukraine date for accession talks – spokesman EU cannot give Ukraine date for accession talks – spokesman

Kiev also sees “no alternative” to joining NATO, the president added. Moscow has called the bloc’s expansion in Europe a key trigger of the ongoing hostilities with Ukraine.

Brussels granted Ukraine EU-candidate status in June 2022, with formal accession talks launched last December. Both were largely symbolic gestures intended to express Western support for Kiev’s foreign policy goals, according to European officials. The EU is currently debating a new legal framework for enlargement, which is not expected to be adopted before the European Parliament elections in June.

There are reservations over Ukraine’s candidacy, even among some nations that are strong supporters of Kiev in its fight with Russia. Polish officials, for example, have said its neighboring country cannot join unless strong safeguards are put in place to protect current members from cheap Ukrainian agricultural goods, warning that EU farmers would otherwise face bankruptcy.

Politico reported last month that the leadership in Brussels was seeking to keep the issue of Ukrainian integration out of the eye of EU voters ahead of June’s elections. According to the article, Warsaw is expected to lay the groundwork for enlargement after it takes the rotating presidency in the Council of the EU in 2025. (RT)