Dthe new French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, arrived in Kiev on Monday to “witness France’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people”. When she arrived at the train station, the Foreign Minister stressed “full willingness to increase support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression”. The 66-year-old diplomat is the first senior member of the government from Paris to travel to the Ukrainian capital since the war broke out on 24 February.
Your predecessor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and President Emmanuel Macron have rejected the act of solidarity of a visit that was repeatedly requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This is one of the reasons why the relationship between Paris and Kiev has become more and more strained. President Macron’s Strasbourg proposal for a “European political community”, originally misunderstood as a substitute for full EU membership, led to irritation. Colonna’s mission is better to explain French ideas in Kiev. She will meet with President Zelenskyy for talks Monday night.
Zelensky shy of Macron
Colonna’s journey was kept secret. She flew to Rzeszow Airport in Poland on Sunday and traveled from there by night train to Kiev. Upon her arrival, she first drove to the city of Bucha and bowed to the victims of the massacre committed by Russian troops. France has provided several internationally experienced investigators to assist in the legal investigation into the massacre. President Macron caused dissatisfaction when, unlike US President Joe Biden, he refused to talk about genocide in Bucha in late March.
Zelenskyy said he found Macron’s refusal to condemn the “genocide” “very hurtful”. Macron justified his position by arguing that the concept of genocide matters and should be determined by lawyers, not politicians. A “verbal escalation” would not help Ukraine. In Bucha, Colonna said, “This should never have happened. It must not happen again.” She pointed out that the French investigators arrived at the request of the Ukrainian justice minister, most of Butscha’s victims have now been identified, about 30 people have not yet been identified.
The foreign minister said the identification would be completed by the end of this week. She later laid a wreath at a memorial to war victims. “France stands by its friends, its allies. France will do its utmost to bring peace back, “Colonna said. The Foreign Minister’s visit was used as an opportunity to ceremoniously hand over 85 ambulances and fire engines as well as civilian aid materials worth a total of 2.7 million euros to the Ukrainian side.
In Colonna’s talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the main topic was the prospect of joining the EU. President Macron diplomatically rejected an accelerated admission process in Strasbourg on 9 May. At the end of the EU Futures Conference, he struck a completely different tone. He put forward the idea of a new format for European countries that share EU values, but whose accession is far-fetched due to the lengthy process of adapting to European standards. In the case of war-torn Ukraine, Macron expects “decades” of EU membership.
To avoid disappointment during this period, a new format should already include cooperation in the areas of transport, energy, modernization of the economy and security policy. Macron is particularly interested in Ukraine, but also in Georgia and Moldova. The French president also has visa-free travel in mind for members of the new format. The “European Political Community” is not intended as a substitute for full EU membership, but rather as a constructive “waiting room” for countries whose accession process takes time.
The move was initially met with irritation from the Ukrainian side. Meanwhile, Kyiv has embraced the idea as long as Paris supports immediate candidate status for Ukraine in return. So far, Macron has kept a low profile on this issue, citing its special role during the French Presidency of the EU Council.