Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The EU announced a new package of sanctions against Russia and Belarus on Wednesday, adding 14 oligarchs to the blacklist while severing ties with the central bank of Belarus and the country’s main lenders, Reuters has reported.
Commenting on the crisis in Ukraine, an EU official has said that the bloc will not approve the request to accelerate its accession process. Acquiring membership is a long and intricate process, the official declared, while noting that the EU does want to strengthen its ties with Ukraine.
The official is involved in preparations for the two-day summit in Versailles and indicted that participants would discuss Ukraine’s status with regard to the EU single market and the bloc’s energy grid, yet reiterated that “membership could take a long time.”
Ukraine fast-tracking unlikely
Another official pointed out that while “the leaders are unlikely to offer Ukraine candidate status… it is more likely that there will be more cooperation within the association agreement.”
This will doubtless come as a disappointment to Ukraine, which wants more support from the West as it fights off Russia.
“Offering more is impossible because this is a country that is now engulfed by war, partially under Russian occupation, and maybe at some point even completely under occupation”, the second official concluded.
Ukraine and the EU signed the association agreement in September 2014, after unrest led to the overthrow of the government that had been looking to strengthen Ukraine’s ties to Russia.
The latest package of EU sanctions targets 160 individuals, including MPs and 14 oligarchs. To date, the bloc has imposed sanctions on 53 entities and 826 individuals arising from the invasion of Ukraine.
The new measures include bans on export of maritime technology to Russia and transactions with the National Bank of Belarus (NBRB), and exclude three banks from the SWIFT system.
EU leaders are scheduled to discuss plans for weaning the EU off Russian energy imports.
Meantime, some EU member states have become sceptical about enlargement, warning that formerly communist bloc members like Hungary and Poland have been growing more EU-sceptic while absorbing EU aid. France and the Netherlands have been leading the charge against taking in new members.