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France's President Emmanuel Macron said Monday it would take "decades" for a candidate like Ukraine to join the EU, and suggested building a broader political community of democratic states around the bloc.
"Even if we gave them candidate status tomorrow," he said of Ukraine, "we all know perfectly well that the process of allowing them to join would take several years, in truth doubtless several decades."
But, noting the urgence of giving Ukraine and other EU hopefuls like Moldova and Georgia a place in the heart of Europe, he called for the creation of "European political community".
Russia invaded Ukraine in February, in part to thwart Kyiv's tilt towards integration with the EU and NATO, and Georgia and Moldova are also partly occupied by Moscow's troops.
Just ahead of Macron's speech, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted that the EU executive would give its "opinion" on Ukraine's membership bid in June.
But Macron, in a speech endorsing calls for a treaty change to further strengthen the EU's federal integration, said the bloc, "given its level of integration and ambition" could not be Europe's only organising body.
"It is our historic obligation ... to create what I would describe before you today as a European political community," he said.
"This new European organisation would allow democratic European nations ... to find a new space for political cooperation, security, cooperation in energy, transport, investment, infrastructure, the movement of people."
Speaking about the war in Ukraine, Macron said that Russia and Ukraine would have to come to a "negotiated truce" and that peace efforts would not be served by Russia's "humiliation".
"Tomorrow we'll have a peace to build, let's never forget that," he told reporters. "We will have to do this with Ukraine and Russia around the table.
"The terms of the discussion and negotiation will be set by Ukraine and Russia, but that will not be done through... the exclusion of one another, nor even in their humiliation."
Macron's Strasbourg speech came just after Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in Moscow, said that Russia's war in Ukraine was necessary to defend the "Motherland" as he oversaw a parade marking the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.
The parade is a yearly event where Russia shows its military might with marching soldiers and a show of armored personnel carriers, tanks and trucks carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles.
However, Putin's speech in Red Square made no major announcements on Russia's next steps in the invasion, despite reports that he could unveil an escalation or a general mobilisation.
Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, all former members of the USSR, hope to join the EU in order to diminish what they perceive as a threat from Russia. Apart from the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia is present in two breakaway provinces of Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and a slice of land at the eastern flank of Moldova (Transnistria).