It has been a long time since Emmanuel Macron took daily messages from Volodymyr Zelensky at the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Phone calls between the French President and his Ukrainian counterpart in khaki have become rarer.
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It must be said that the disagreements between Paris and Kyiv multiplied and that the Frenchman repeatedly failed to meet the Ukrainian’s expectations. About joining the European Union, about dealing with Vladimir Putin… Result: After four months of the conflict, the popularity of the first with the second has fallen drastically. As the tenant of the Elysée Palace continues his tour of Romania and Moldova at the gates of the conflict on Wednesday June 15, franceinfo tells you how relations between the two leaders have cooled.
A proposal for a “European Political Community” that displeased
During his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on May 9th, Emmanuel Macron, who holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union until June 30th, surprised everyone by announcing the creation of a new institutional structure: the “European Political Community”. . Instead of pure membership of the European Union, the French President is offering EU applicants a different form of cooperation. In concrete terms, this organization would “enable the democratic European nations that adhere to our fundamental values to find a new space for political cooperation, security and cooperation”, explains the French head of state.
To bring our Europe together in the truth of its geography, based on its democratic values, the European Union cannot be the only answer. In order to structure our continent politically, I would like to initiate a reflection on a European political community.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 9, 2022
Unsurprisingly, Ukraine, which has been even more eager to join the EU since Russia invaded its territory, took this message for itself. On the same day, Volodymyr Zelensky uses a long-distance meeting with French students to give his opinion. “We cannot remain in this state of uncertainty all the time. It’s like a table where the whole family is gathered, you’re invited but you haven’t been given a chair. It’s unfair, he repeats. he, via video conference. Ukraine respects the European Union and we want to enjoy the same respect.”
On May 17, Emmanuel Macron tries to clear up the misunderstanding. He picks up the phone and calls Volodymyr Zelenskyy to confirm that Ukraine’s application for membership of the European Union will indeed be considered “on the basis of the opinion of the European Commission” during the June European Council.
Unfortunately the damage is done. “Mr. Macron’s speech was seen by some in Ukraine as a kind of rejection of EU enlargement,” said Ukraine’s Ambassador to Paris Vadym Omelchenko, contacted by Le Monde on May 19. He “It’s important to clarify that we only want to talk about candidate status at this point. That would be a gesture of hope. We know enlargement is a long road that we are ready to walk.”
A disagreement about not “humiliating” Russia.
This is not the only passage from the May 9 speech by the French President that has angered Kyiv. On the same day, Emmanuel Macron also urges “never to give in to temptation or humiliation or the spirit of vengeance”. Understand: in relation to Russia. Rebelote a month later, on June 3rd, this time in an interview given by Emmanuel Macron to the regional daily press. “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can find a way out through diplomatic channels,” said the head of state.
“Calls to avoid humiliating Russia can only humiliate France or any other country. Because it is Russia that is humiliating itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. That will bring peace and life save it,” head of Ukraine’s diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba tweeted.
Contacted by franceinfo, Alexander Query, a French journalist based in Kyiv and a member of the editorial board of the Ukrainian newspaper Kviv Independent, also swears “an absolutely incomprehensible speech, today in Ukraine”, “simply because of the processions of atrocities and horrors that Russian soldiers used the Inflicting on Ukrainians today not to humiliate Russia is a speech absolutely incomprehensible to Ukrainians.”
The sentence, considered more than unfortunate by many, including in European diplomacy, is a reminder that Emmanuel Macron had already insulted the Ukrainians in mid-April by refusing to use the word “genocide” to describe the Russian invasion, as it did US President Joe Biden had just done it. “You have to be careful with the terms today because they are brotherly peoples,” the lessee of the Elysées explained at the time.
On Wednesday, June 15, from the tarmac of the NATO base in Romania, in Constanta, Emmanuel Macron explained himself again, recalling “the clarity” of France’s position of support for Ukraine, “without any kindness” towards Moscow.
“From day one, France has been clear that Russia is the aggressor and is waging a war against Ukraine and its people, and does not respect the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Ukraine. We have condemned this in all international fora with great determination.”
during an official visit to Romania, June 15, 2022
Repeated calls with Vladimir Putin that go wrong
Emmanuel Macron’s phone calls with Vladimir Poutine and the staging that sometimes goes with them (photos with a serious expression, three-day beard, sweatshirt instead of a suit and tie, etc.) can annoy some Ukrainians. Starting with the first of them: Volodymyr Zelensky.
In an interview granted to Italian TV channel Rai 1 on May 12, the Ukrainian President takes offense at the French President’s attempts to talk to his Russian counterpart. “Macron does not have to make diplomatic concessions, he regretted. We must not look for a way out for Russia, and Macron is doing it in vain. (…) I know that he wanted to get results in mediation between Russia and Ukraine, but he didn’t get any.”
Emmanuel Macron in the golden salon of the Elysée, March 6, 2021. (SOAZIG DE LA MOISSONNIERE / INSTAGRAM)
The French President has now inherited a neologism: “macroner” (“macaroons” in Ukrainian). Translation: “Pretend to be very worried about a certain situation, show it to everyone, but do nothing of the substance,” says the Ukrainian press here and there (in Ukrainian).
A visit to Ukraine that is slowly arriving
After four months of war, the list of leaders who have already provided physical support to Ukraine is long. The British, Canadian and Portuguese prime ministers, the head of American diplomacy, the President of Poland and the Baltic countries, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission… And Emmanuel Macron? Still not, in mid-June, and this while the French President has held the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union since the beginning of January.
However, it is not the calls of the foot that are missing. At the end of May, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba reminded him for the umpteenth time that he was “welcome, anytime”. And to add: “It would be good for Emmanuel Macron to come during the French EU presidency” which ends on June 30th.
“I don’t think it’s too late for him to go there,” diplomat Michel Duclos, special adviser at the Institut Montaigne, told franceinfo, who just wrote a note on the subject. But he has to get there really fast. He needs to clear things up. A trip to Kyiv would dispel many doubts.”
So far, the French head of state always replies: “In due course, under the right conditions, I will make this trip.” Maybe in the next few hours? The head of state is in the region, on Tuesday in Moldova and on Wednesday in Romania. Contacted by franceinfo on Wednesday afternoon, the head of state’s entourage confirmed: “The president said he was going to Ukraine, so he will go.”