Croatian PM says EU sent 'strong political signal' on Ukraine at Versailles summit

A week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed off on his country's formal application to join the European Union, EU leaders have pledged to "strengthen bonds" and "deepen the partnership" between Ukraine and the bloc. This falls short of the promise to speed up the candidacy procedure that some had been calling for. But Croatia's prime minister told FRANCE 24 that the 27 member states have sent a "strong political signal". Andrej Plenkovic spoke to our Europe Editor Catherine Nicholson during this week's EU summit in Versailles.

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"In Versailles, we sent a strong political signal saying that we want to intensify relations with Ukraine in every single possible way that we can in order to pursue its European path," Plenkovic told FRANCE 24.

The Croatian premier strongly condemned the "brutal" Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that on February 24, Russia "violated all the principles of international law and international order as we know it" and that the EU was united in its condemnation of the war.

He added: "We can only conclude after the statements of Russia's Foreign Minister [Sergei Lavrov] that we live in two different realities, and that's why we will continue sending strong messages and adopting packages of restrictive measures in order to tell Moscow that this is not appropriate; that they should immediately stop with so many innocent casualties and people fleeing their homes in Ukraine. This is unbelievable and unacceptable for the third decade of the 21st century in Europe." 

EU's energy dependence on Russian gas 'above 40 percent'

Asked about the EU's dependency on Russian gas, Plenkovic said: "In Europe, the energy dependence on Russian gas is above 40 percent. It's a very real threat to countries and I think what we are currently doing is setting up the entire alternative concept of the gas supply in Europe, whether it's from increased production domestically, or whether it's imports from other countries who are gas producers such as Norway, Azerbaijan, Libya or Algeria, or ships coming with liquefied natural gas."

The Croatian prime minister said that three crises co-exist. "One is the tragedy of the Ukrainian people for which we are absolutely sorry and we are trying to help our Ukrainian friends; the second is the massive refugee flow; and the third one is the unprecedented spike of energy prices, whether it's gas, whether it's petrol, whether it's oil or the electricity in turn. The whole idea of the governments, and also at the level of the European Union, we ask the Commission to come up with proposals which should be a European solution, even a global one in capping the energy prices. We have all turned, domestically, into interventionist governments."

Produced by Georgina Robertson, Sophie Samaille and Perrine Desplats. 

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