PARIS: A bid by Ukraine to join the European Union would not be finalised for "15 or 20 years," France's Europe minister said Sunday, rejecting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hopes for a quick entry in the wake of Russia's invasion of his country.
"We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you're lying," Clement Beaune told Radio J. "It's probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time."
"I don't want to offer Ukrainians any illusions or lies," he said, reiterating an offer by President Emmanuel Macron to create a looser "European political community" that could help integrate Ukraine with the bloc sooner.
That offer has received a cold welcome from Zelenskyy, who on Saturday denounced "such compromises" and insisted on an immediate start of the process towards full EU membership.
But Beaune said Macron's proposal is not "an alternative to joining the European political community. It doesn't prevent membership later on."
Under Macron's plan, "there could be free circulation in Europe, and it could benefit from the European budget for reconstruction and the revival of its country, society and economy," he said.
Other EU leaders have also shown little appetite for a quick welcome of Ukraine, whose pro-Western aspirations are seen as a main reason Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of the country on February 24.
Macron's "European political community" initiative will be debated at an EU summit in late June.