The European Union should deliver tanks to Ukraine and speed up the procedure of having the country join the bloc, European Parliament speaker Roberta Metsola told AFP Wednesday.
The centre-right Maltese official said she would relay the message to EU leaders at a summit in Prague on Friday.
The Ukrainians “need weapons that they can fight with in order to regain their territory, and that means, for example, Leopard II tanks that several members states have,” Metsola said in an interview during the parliament’s plenary sitting in Strasbourg.
Kyiv has long been demanding deliveries of German-designed Leopard II tanks. But Berlin has not agreed, preferring that any such transfer be part of a wider accord among Western allies.
Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and non-EU members Norway, Switzerland and Turkey altogether possess some 2,000 of the tanks, according to an EU official.
Metsola, who was the first head of an EU institution to visit Kyiv, back in April, said countries willing to give tanks would be reimbursed from an EU fund, the European Peace Facility, which has released 2.5 billion euros ($2.5 billion) for Ukraine military purchases.
“I think these are discussions we need to have now, especially because we are seeing Russia is escalating but also on the flipside when we are seeing Ukraine successfully pushing the Russians out,” she said.
Several EU countries are concerned that major donations from their arsenals could compromise their own national defence capabilities.
Metsola contended, though, that Leopard tank deliveries “would not significantly dent” individual countries’ overall preparedness.
– Ukraine’s EU bid –
The parliament president also reiterated her call for Ukraine to have an “accelerated” entry into the European Union.
Kyiv in June obtained candidate status to start that process, but the vetting and analysis stages typically run to years, and Metsola did not want to forecast how long it might take in Ukraine’s case.
But, she said, “We have a country that has shown us its intention, and overwhelming willingness to join, and surpassing expectations and meeting goals that other countries would have taken months or years.”
She also said Moldova, which obtained candidate status at the same time as Kyiv and which is vulnerable to Russia’s expansionism because of a Moscow-backed breakaway territory within its borders, must not be forgotten.
Albania and North Macedonia, which are further along the path towards EU adhesion, additionally need attention, otherwise “these countries could look elsewhere,” she cautioned.
Friday’s EU summit in Prague will be preceded by a broader one on Thursday inaugurating a “European Political Community” with Ukraine, Moldova, Albania and North Macedonia among 44 countries represented.
Metsola underlined that the gathering, a brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, will not “replace the enlargement process”.
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