The vacationing US president has weighed in on European affairs
US President Joe Biden thinks Ukraine is “very likely” to become a member of the European Union, he told reporters on Monday. He also said a visit to Kiev is still on the table, but probably not during his upcoming trip to Europe.
Biden spoke to a press gaggle in Rehoboth, Delaware, where he’s vacationing ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid, scheduled to start on June 29. The 79-year-old US leader fell off his bicycle on Saturday, but the White House later said he was unharmed.
Ukraine has yet to receive candidate status, the first step in a process of joining the block that can take decades. Paris and Berlin have come out in favor of “immediately” granting Kiev that status, after the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Kiev last week. Italy and Romania also support the move.
This appears to be a change from the end of May, when Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Rome was the only major EU capital to back Kiev’s candidacy. Both Draghi and Scholz have expressed frustration with the EU requirement for unanimous decision-making, however, and cited Ukraine as an example of why it needs to be abolished.
Germany “wants a positive decision in favor of Ukraine as a EU candidate country,” Scholz told the news agency DPA, adding that Brussels needs to “modernize its structures and decision-making processes.”
“It will not be always possible to decide unanimously on everything that has to be decided unanimously today,” the German leader said. Meanwhile, the Italian PM has argued for “qualified majority decision-making” instead.
While the US president officially has no say in whom the EU chooses to admit or when, the bloc has closely followed Washington’s lead regarding the conflict in Ukraine – often at its own economic detriment.
Biden has so far not visited Ukraine himself. His wife Jill did, as have Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon head Lloyd Austin. Asked again on Monday if he had plans to visit Kiev, Biden said it would depend on “whether or not it causes more difficulty for Ukrainians, whether it distracts from what’s going on.”
“On this trip, not likely,” he added. The US president is scheduled to fly to Germany on Saturday for a G7 summit, and then head to Spain for the meeting of NATO leaders.