EU leaders in Ukraine: are their promises enough?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis sent a clear message of solidarity with Ukraine during their visit to Kyiv, vowing to support the nation as long as needed. President Voldymyr Zelensky spoke of a "historic day" for his country. Commentators say more must be done, however.

Open/close all quotes
De Volkskrant (NL) /

Scholz off track

Scholz's visit to Kyiv failed to dispel all the tensions in the relations between Germany and Ukraine, which follow a certain pattern, De Volkskrant comments:

“About-turns, hesitation, and yet more about-turns. ... This raises the question of whether Scholz's promises and commitments can still appease the Ukrainians. On Thursday in Kyiv, the chancellor promised long-term financial and humanitarian support 'and yes, weapons, too, for as long as Ukraine needs them in its fight for independence'. However, if his pledges are not quickly followed by concrete action, the risk is great that the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin will soon post a tweet that will send the thawing relations back to the freezer.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

More heroism needed

Arms deliveries must now follow, says Spotmedia:

“If the visit of European leaders to Kyiv results in a change in the approach to arms deliveries, we can hope that the front in eastern Ukraine will evolve to our advantage. The outcome of the war depends not only on the heroism of the soldiers defending Severodonetsk, but also crucially on the arms supplies that Europe can provide to Ukraine so that it humiliates the invader.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Negotiations are not being discussed

The topic of when potential peace negotiations could begin was left unaddressed, La Repubblica complains:

“The Ukrainians had already raised their hands defensively before the visit of the three [sic] Europeans to Kyiv, for fear of being driven to the negotiating table under conditions that would put them at a disadvantage: which would be a copy-and-paste of Minsk, as they made clear. However, Zelensky said some time ago that a return to the territorial situation before 24 February would be an important if not definitive victory for Ukraine. Could this be the turning point for Russia, which controlled a third of Donbass before the war and now has almost the entire region under its control?”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Strengthen the strategic position

The only alternative is to provide maximum support with weapons on the one hand and accession candidate status on the other, Wiener Zeitung insists:

“Arming Ukraine enhances the deterrent effect. ... And the prospect of EU accession for Ukraine now openly held out by the European quartet in Kyiv is the promise that the EU has owed the government there ever since the Maidan protests of 2014. Wars usually end with a declaration of surrender, a ceasefire or a peace agreement. Now the aim is to strengthen Ukraine's strategic position - arms deliveries and the prospect of EU accession are important building blocks in this endeavour.”

Polityka (PL) /

Poland's place in the pecking order

Polityka wonders why no Polish representative was invited:

“Perhaps this is Macron and Scholz's payback for the PiS trying to cast them as being too lenient with the Butcher of Bucha? In any event Poland's place in the EU pecking order has once again been made clear, or, to put it more simply, the view that Kaczyński, who tolerated Morawiecki's criticism of Macron and is now himself once again attacking Germany, is not a credible partner for the powerful, even though Poland has been praised for its stance on the war in Ukraine. Rather than taking Duda along, the organisers chose the Romanian president, who enjoys a good reputation in Washington and represents the 'new' EU.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Only Biden and Putin can make things happen

Although the initiative is laudable it has no chance of success, comments geopolitics expert Lucio Caracciolo in La Stampa:

“The end of this phase of the war will not be decided by the Europeans on one side or the other. That can only happen through direct dialogue between the US and Russia. ... So far one can only detect a certain war-weariness on the American side, and an equally clear presumption on Russia's part that it could penetrate far beyond Donbass. ... One thing is certain: this conflict is so deeply entrenched that at any moment it could spiral out of control. It is painful to think that there is little we can do about it. And even more painful if we think we're in control of the game.” (UA) /

Collusion behind the scenes

Viktor Andrusiv of the think tank Ukrainian Institute for the Future believes Scholz and Putin have reached an agreement. He writes on

“Since Russian troops can afford to wait, and in the meantime we are getting very little from our 'allies', I'm inclined to believe that there is an informal agreement between Scholz and Putin. In essence, this agreement consists of Putin promising Scholz that he will stop at the border of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Postponing weapons deliveries is tantamount to giving maximum support to the Russian 'operation', since the lack of weapons on our side is what allows them to advance.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Pathos and reality

In a video address on Wednesday, Zelensky thanked both chambers of the Czech parliament for the country's aid to Ukraine. Lidové noviny comments:

“It is often useful to look under the thin veneer of pathos. Naturally, European values are at stake on the battlefield, but above all principles like sovereignty, the inviolability of borders and the defence of the state. ... Prime Minister Petr Fiala is also relying on pathos when he says the war must end as quickly as possible with a Ukrainian victory. But if it is to end soon, it will have to end with a compromise. If Ukraine is to emerge victorious, this will not happen so soon. We have to be at least that honest.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Europe must not get used to this war

NRC Handelsblad warns of war weariness in the face of problems such as the energy crisis and inflation:

“These are no trifling matters, but taking a narrow view of the situation will undermine the consensus. Perhaps that's exactly what Putin is aiming for. ... The fact that after almost four months the war has reached a military stalemate, with two tired and thinned-out armies on both sides of a long front, does not make the daily atrocities taking place on Ukrainian territory any less abhorrent. Even if it faces extraordinary worries on various levels, Europe must not get used to this war.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Open outcome

There are two ways things can go, Rzeczpospolita believes:

“The positive scenario: President Macron, Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Draghi announce massive military support for Ukraine and tell the Ukrainians that the EU has a real interest in granting their country proper accession and not some sham membership. The negative scenario: they tell President Zelensky to forget about recapturing Mariupol and to slowly come to terms with the fact that the peace we are all waiting for requires a compromise to allow Putin to save face.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Be clear with Zelensky

The Frankfurter Rundschau demands clear words from the German government:

“[Scholz] will have to have the promise of more heavy weapons in his suitcase and a clear commitment to Ukraine on his lips. At the same time, it would be appropriate to try to persuade Zelensky that the reconquest of Crimea, which he announced as a war goal shortly before the meeting, is not realistic at present and stands in the way of potential peace negotiations. ... Scholz, Macron and Draghi must tell Zelensky the facts about what is feasible and what is not. This concerns both EU membership and the question of new arms deliveries and further financial support.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

A potential turning point

Radio Kommersant FM says the trip to Kyiv could have far-reaching consequences:

“There is a persistent version according to which the high-ranking Western representatives are travelling there to persuade Zelensky to make peace or at least to resume negotiations. This is probably the main reason why the trip could still fall through. The Ukrainian side has indicated that it is not prepared to make concessions, but nevertheless some compromise variant is likely being discussed. ... Be that as it may, a certain turning point has now been reached - and it's unclear which way the pendulum will swing. Weapons are not yet entering Ukraine en masse, not all the gas pipelines have been blocked and not all the sanctions packages have been passed.”

France Inter (FR) /

Macron's course-correction

Macron will use the trip to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine to clarify his stance after ruffling many feathers with his recent comments, columnist Pierre Haski writes on the website of France Inter radio station:

“In Romania and Moldova the president is likely to reassure audiences about Paris's commitment. ... At stake is France's place and influence in Europe in the post-Ukraine-war era, because the Elysée is convinced that this conflict is about more than Ukraine and Europe. The doubts were all the greater because unlike other European leaders Macron has not yet visited Kyiv since the war began. This trip, be it alone or with the leaders of Germany and Italy, will be necessary to bind Europe together again.”