Charles Michel has called for more arms deliveries to Kiev and further sanctions on Russia
The EU must not "fail" Ukraine as it faces a make-or-break moment in the conflict with Russia over the next several weeks, European Council President Charles Michel has said.
Kiev expects the EU to "keep the pressure on the Kremlin" with sanctions and provide military aid, the senior official told journalists after returning from a trip to Ukraine. The interview was published on Monday by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
"The next weeks, two or three, are decisive," Michel said. "What happens in 2023 - and much of it depends on the coming weeks - is what will define our future. We have to stand with Ukraine and give them all the support they need. We cannot fail them."
He acknowledged that doing what Kiev wants has been difficult at times for EU member states. Agreeing on sanctions has been a challenge, and members are now at an impasse over the idea of sending main battle tanks to Ukraine.
Michel insisted that despite this, the EU remains united and that the views of each nation should be respected. Germany in particular, he added, "has played and plays a key role," and is a major contributor of arms to Ukraine.
Poland and other EU nations want to provide German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Berlin, however, has not officially greenlit these deliveries and has not decided to send the tanks on its own. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly wants the US to lead by example and send its tanks to Ukraine first.
In the interview with El Mundo, Michel framed assistance to Ukraine as vital for the EU, claiming that "there can be no free and secure Europe without a free and secure Ukraine."
But despite Kiev's requests to be fast-tracked to become a full EU member, Michel stated that there can be no cutting corners. He suggested amending the meaning of 'fast track' instead.
"If it means changing the rules and procedures, no, because we believe in and defend the rule of law. But if it means that both parties speed up the work, following the rules step by step, then of course," Ukraine's candidacy can be fast-tracked, he said.
Moscow has stated that it will not accept any outcome of the crisis in Ukraine that fails to resolve its core security concerns, and that arming Kiev with increasingly advanced weapons will only prolong the conflict and raise the risk of nuclear escalation.
Some EU nations, such as France, have said that any future security architecture in Europe will have to address Russia's concerns in order to be viable.