Interview: Catherine Colonna, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, answers Glavkom’s questions (09.07.23)


With the NATO summit due to be held in Vilnius very soon, and with Ukraine and many allies having high hopes with regard to Ukraine being accepted into the Alliance, I’d like you to tell me what Paris’ position is regarding Ukraine’s rapid accession to NATO. What would the obstacles be?

Ukraine will be at the heart of the Vilnius summit. At a time when the Ukrainians are conducting a counter-offensive on the ground, with a courage and determination that command admiration, we must send a strong political signal on the fact that the allies’ support is for the long term. The challenge is twofold: in the short term, we must ensure Ukraine has the necessary resources to ensure its self-defence. And in the longer term, we want to bolster Ukraine’s capabilities in a sufficiently robust way to deter any further aggression by Russia.

An important part of the discussions we’ll be holding with our partners in Vilnius will therefore be devoted to fleshing out the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, recognized since 2008. In line with the decisions taken at the Madrid summit in June 2022, we’ll even further strengthen the partnership between NATO and Ukraine, which we must remember is one of the most substantial ones existing to date. Our goal is clear: to make concrete progress on Ukraine’s interoperability with NATO and provide tangible support for its Euro-Atlantic integration.

Ukraine is currently closer to NATO than it’s ever been, and that’s one of Vladimir Putin’s main failures. It’s becoming increasingly clear for the allies that when the time comes, it [Ukraine] won’t need a Membership Action Plan to join NATO. In France’s view, accession is a genuine prospect, as was decided in Bucharest in 2008.

What is France’s point of view on security guarantees for Ukraine, which are the focus of many discussions? As a nuclear power and a member of the Security Council, is your country ready to give Ukraine security guarantees, and if so, of what kind?

Like many of its partners, France is prepared to grant Ukraine tangible and credible security guarantees, in order to give it the means – particularly in terms of equipment – to defend itself against the aggression of which it is the victim and prevent any future aggression. This is for an obvious reason: today, Ukraine is protecting Europe and providing it with de-facto security guarantees. This issue is the subject of discussions with our partners and will be central to the signal sent out in Vilnius. It was also the focus of the last European Council, which reconfirmed Europe’s support for Ukraine for as long as necessary and signalled its Member States’ commitment to contribute to these security guarantees.

For France, what does a Ukrainian victory in the war unleashed by Russia mean? Does it include the return to Ukraine of Crimea, illegally annexed in 2014?

The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine cannot and must not end with a victory by Russia. We will never accept a legitimization of the illegal use of force, because it violates the basic principles of the United Nations Charter but also challenges the rules that have defined our collective security since the end of the Second World War. By attacking Ukraine in breach of all its international commitments, Russia is undermining these principles, which guarantee the stability of the international order based on respect for the sovereignty of States. We’ll defend these principles with all our partners for as long as it takes. That’s central to our commitment to Ukraine.

The brutal war waged by Russia for the past 500 days is a continuation of what was started in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas. Those territories fall within Ukraine’s internationally-recognized borders.

So Ukraine’s victory will mean, firstly, the failure of this aggression, with the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territories within Ukraine’s borders recognized since 1991, and thus the restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Secondly, as President Macron has clearly pointed out, it will be for the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians alone to determine the terms of the victory. If a solution to the conflict requires peace negotiations, the Ukrainians alone will decide on the arrangements for those negotiations. We’ll stand by them for as long as necessary, with our allies and our European partners, and we’ll support them with all our might.

Have French politicians understood that Ukraine is defending its allies against an aggression that could occur if Ukraine wasn’t resisting Russia’s pressure?

For 500 days Ukrainian men and women have been courageously defending themselves. They’ve been defending their territory, first of all, but they’re also contributing to the security of the whole European continent. The French people know that.

Since the first day of the war, the Europeans have been united in supporting Ukraine. This commitment is still just as strong 500 days after the Russian aggression began: we’ve helped Ukraine to the tune of €67 billion, including €14 billion as regards military support, we’ve imposed tough sanctions on Russia to hinder its war effort, we’ve provided emergency aid and welcomed many refugees fleeing the bombardments and devastation which Russia is guilty of every day.

All this shows that both France and its European partners are showing profound solidarity. It also shows that we immediately understood it wasn’t solely about Ukraine’s security. What’s at stake today is the future of European societies and the possibility for all this continent’s citizens to live in peace.

Russia must have no doubt that we’ll continue to stand by Ukraine for as long as necessary. As long as it’s threatened by imperialist urges, whatever they may be, we’ll defend the right of peoples to live in peace, freedom and sovereignty in their country.

We know France has progressively become a supporter of Ukraine and Moldova joining the European Union. Which one, in your opinion, has more chance of joining the EU first? To what extent are you personally satisfied with the pace at which Ukraine is fulfilling its obligations?

Ukraine’s future is indisputably linked to the European family. Since the beginning of the process, France has supported that prospect. You’ll remember that it was under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union that Ukraine was recognized as a candidate country.

Likewise, France continues to support Moldova’s European pathway, which recently saw tremendous success when the second European Political Community summit was held in Chisinau. On that occasion, as you know, we agreed on a reduction in roaming charges between Moldova and the European Union from 1 January 2024 onwards: it’s a very practical decision which shows that Moldova is and will be part of the European family. In this spirit, we also hosted the third ministerial conference of the Moldova Support Platform in Paris in November 2022. We’ll continue defending that country against the destabilizing consequences of the war Russia is illegally conducting in Ukraine.

Ukraine and Moldova are engaged in a European Union accession process which is long and demanding, requiring significant reforms. The two countries have their own characteristics and merits, but share the same desire to move forward so as to offer their people the future they aspire to. So France will support them all along the way.