ZURICH (Reuters) – Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer called on Sunday for an intermediate stage between cooperation and full membership of the European Union for countries like Ukraine and Moldova.
The so-called “preparatory space” would allow countries to reach the standards of the European Union, similar to the European Economic Area (EEA) or the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA), Nehammer said.
“We are united by the same goal, we all want a strong, independent and economically successful Ukraine,” Nehammer said in a statement issued by the chancellor’s office.
“Currently, Ukraine is fighting for its political and territorial survival. All our efforts are primarily aimed at ending the Russian war of aggression. In such a phase, a quick full accession to the union cannot be a pressing issue anyway.”
Nehammer said the emotion needed to be taken out of the current debate on Ukraine’s EU membership, adding that the rapid accession of Ukraine was “not realistic”.
“We should create a European preparatory space, which will make it possible to strengthen cooperation with the EU step by step and to better adapt to European standards,” Nehammer said.
Austria followed a similar path for decades with European free trade agreements before it joined the EU in 1995, he noted.
Ukraine has said it is fed up with “special solutions” and separate models for its integration into the European Union and wants full membership, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said last month.
Nehammer also said he supported French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea of establishing a new type of political European community of countries who aspire to join the bloc or wish closer ties and adherence to the EU’s values.
Kyiv has expressed its concern that such a community could be used as an alternative to membership.