What did the three EU leaders achieve in Kyiv?

The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia travelled by train to Kyiv on Tuesday to pledge solidarity and support for Ukraine in a meeting with President Zelensky. "This is the fight of freedom against the world of tyranny," said Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki. There was no official EU mandate for the visit, but it is said to have been coordinated with Brussels and the UN. Zelensky said the visit was a strong signal of support. Europe's press takes differing views.

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Zeit Online (DE) /

Showing Putin where the limits are

Zeit Online recommends immitating the initiative of the three Eastern European leaders:

“Why shouldn't Olaf Scholz also go? Or, thinking even further ahead: why shouldn't the Western leaders and foreign ministers come to Kyiv and make it even more risky for Putin to wear down the capital with area bombardments? In any case, the four have pulled off an amazing political stunt. Their visit shows what an open, confrontational policy towards Putin can look like even under conditions of war and the threat of nuclear escalation. With their presence, they have not only encouraged the people of Ukraine but also made clear to Putin the limits of his power over the country.”

Sme (SK) /

Give Poland a break for now

Sme praises Poland for the role it is playing in the Ukraine crisis:

“We don't want to be overly dramatic, but in the midst of the horror of Russian aggression Poland has placed itself at the front line of the defence of Western values. ... This should also be a warning to the European Parliament not to ask the EU Commission to initiate proceedings against the country now of all times. ... Poland may have problems with the rule of law. Nevertheless, it is currently taking care of one and a half million refugees and is also the most important transfer point for weapons to Ukraine. That should be reason enough for at least a temporary reprieve.”

hvg (HU) /

Orbán in danger of losing his Polish friends?

The war is putting a strain on the alliance between the Polish and Hungarian governments, hvg comments:

“The fact that Viktor Orbán was not present on this trip serves as a clear indication, even though he would not have been able to travel anyway due to the election campaign and the public holiday on 15 March. Everything indicates that the decision regarding the future of Polish-Hungarian relations will not lie with Viktor Orbán this time. ... If the Russia issue remains at the centre of European politics and Orbán does not abandon his two-track policy, this alliance is very likely to falter in the long term.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

The eastern wing is taking the initiative

Echo24 approves of the three prime ministers' initiative:

“The war in Ukraine is a chance for the eastern wing of the EU to emancipate itself. Three prime ministers from 'Eastern' Europe brought a message of support to Kyiv. ... They demonstrate that the EU's centre of gravity has clearly shifted eastwards, at least in these times. The 'new' Europe is not a parasite of the 'old' Europe. In a real crisis, one can rely on the East, which can even show much initiative.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Official EU visit would have been appropriate

Rzeczpospolita is more sceptical:

“Think of Georgia in 2008: The world was a different place. Russia was just as dangerous as it is today, even if few realised it. Back then, Polish President Lech Kaczyński, accompanied by the leaders of Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, set off for Tbilisi during the Russian invasion. ... The visit to Kyiv is an act of solidarity with the Ukrainians, who are fighting with great dedication against an invader who wants to kill them, incapacitate them and deprive them of their land. The question is why it was only the leaders of these three EU Member States who went there.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Visit by other leaders wouldn't change the result

Dnevnik sees the visit as a symbolic act that will not solve the conflict:

“They were the first European prime ministers to appear in the almost completely besieged capital after the war began. Ljubljana, Zagreb or Sarajevo at the beginning of the war (in the former Yugoslavia) would also have been happy to receive a visit from international leaders. But surely Zelensky would have preferred to see someone with greater political clout in Kyiv, like French President Macron or German Chancellor Scholz. These two, however, cannot be expected in Kyiv, as such visits would not be conducive to finding a solution that ends the conflict. The trio's visit did not contribute to this either.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Wary manoeuvering threatens to split foreign policy

In foreign policy terms, the countries of East Central Europe have grown enormously, the taz observes:

“Who can understand the situation of the Ukrainians better than those who know it from historical experience? The Czechs, for example, feel reminded of the Sudeten crisis of 1938 when they see the minority struggle in the Donbass. And Russian tanks are still in vivid and painful memory throughout the region. ... Central Europe would much rather adopt a harder line, from arms deliveries to a no-fly zone. This is already being demanded by the Baltic states and is gaining more and more support in the Visegrád countries. But if the EU continues its dance between Slava Ukraini on the one hand and appeasing Putin on the other, a split in EU foreign policy could soon emerge.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Proof of Putin's defeat

La Repubblica is enthusiastic:

“The train to Kyiv in which a piece of Europe has crossed embattled Ukraine and turned into a human shield against Putin's bombs carries many messages. The first is not symbolic, but factual. After almost three weeks of invasion and thousands of deaths, the Russian forces have failed in their main objective of occupying Kyiv in order to install a puppet regime. ... President Zelensky is at his post, receiving European colleagues and even trying to hold press conferences amid the bombing. ... The great white city on the Dnieper is surrounded by guns and tanks. Yet Putin did not manage to intercept the train coming from Lviv. Or - and this would perhaps be even more damaging for the Kremlin strongman's reputation - he didn't dare to.”