It will take decades before Ukraine can be officially accepted into the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.
In a speech to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, the reelected French president instead proposed for Ukraine to join a "parallel European community" while waiting for a decision.
It would allow non-EU countries to have access to European security, according to Macron. His statements come after continued and intense fighting in the eastern Donbas region as it comes under attack from Russia.
Ukraine applied for EU membership in February this year, four days after Russia invaded the country.
"We all know perfectly well that the process to allow [Ukraine] to join would take several years indeed, probably several decades," Macron said.
"That is the truth, unless we decide to lower the standards for accession," he added. "And rethink the unity of our Europe."
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A "parallel European community" should be considered as an option instead as "a way of anchoring countries which are geographically in Europe and share our values," the French president said.
His statement came after EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the Commission would publish its initial opinion on Ukraine's accession to the EU in June.