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Czech Foreign Minister: Ukraine's integration into the EU 'won't be painless'

Czech Foreign Minister: Ukraine's integration into the EU 'won't be painless' Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský (Photo: Getty Images)

Jan Lipavský, the head of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, talked in an interview with RBC-Ukraine about the support of Ukraine by Czechia and NATO, European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, and European unity regarding Ukraine.

During the full-scale Russia-Ukrainian war, Czechia was a staunch ally of Kyiv. In this regard, Ukrainians closely watched the results of the presidential elections in Czechia earlier this year, in which the pro-Ukrainian retired general Petr Pavel emerged victorious.

Pavel confirmed his reputation by actively advocating for assistance to Ukraine. At the same time, he often makes resonant and concrete statements about the war between Ukraine and Russia. For instance, this summer at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Pavel stated that the window of opportunities for regaining Ukrainian territory is closing for Kyiv.

Recently, Pavel explicitly stated that time in this war is playing in Russia's favor. Ukraine cannot gain an advantage on the battlefield so peace negotiations could begin next year. However, Pavel emphasizes that there are no alternatives to further support for Ukraine from Western countries.

In the interview with RBC-Ukraine, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský talks about the need for allies to continue supporting Ukraine because aggressive plans are not limited to Ukraine alone – the threat also hangs over NATO member countries.

About the risks of 2024

"It's the mere fact that the counter-offensive hasn't reached its proclaimed goals. But I would like to praise the Ukrainians for the way they were able to secure at least parts of the Black Sea and to reestablish maritime routes to ports. It's very important, for example, to send goods and food to Africa and to other markets."

"So there are results, but I'll be very open: even if we stopped supporting Ukraine now and Ukraine would fail, we would as a Europe, as a European community, as a Transatlantic community, we would face Russia just closer. So we need to help Ukraine in any way possible," said Lipavský.

According to the head of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, several factors next year will make the world situation less sure: the U.S. elections, the European Parliament elections, and national elections in several EU countries.

About the threat to NATO from Russia

"So Ukraine, in this sense, is just one of many possible battlefields, and the Russian grand strategy definitely does not include only to take a few pieces of Ukraine but to destroy Ukraine as such.

"Putin himself repeated those ideas just a few days ago at a big conclave he had organized where he included Ukrainians as a part of the Russian nation, which is total nonsense. It's up to Ukrainians to decide where they want to belong. I think it's clear that Ukrainians decided, and they are proving it daily. They want to be part of the Western civilization society and not to be slaves to Moscow," said the Czech minister.

Lipavský responded affirmatively to the question of whether he sees a threat to NATO from Russia. Therefore, Lipavský emphasized that any assistance to Ukraine makes sense to stop Russian aggression sooner.

"Our task is to provide enough military equipment for you, for the Ukrainians fighting against the Russians. So, this will be the main task next year, and it must become part of our strategy to counteract Russia's harmful influence in Europe," said Lipavský.

About Ukraine's integration into the EU and NATO

The Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs emphasized that Ukraine has already done significant work in terms of European integration, as recognized by the relevant decision of the European Commission. In turn, Czechia fully supports Ukraine's European integration.

However, according to the minister, this process may not be easy.

"It won't be painless. It will bring a situation like we witnessed with the Ukrainian grain in the European market, causing troubles. Now we see transportation companies blocking roads in Poland, so there will be issues, and we need to have a lot of political will to overcome those issues to find good solutions to Ukraine's integration into the European markets, but I think overall, will is there and integration process and negotiation process is a part of that," said Lipavský.

Regarding NATO, the Czech minister urged to focus on practical issues, such as providing military assistance to Ukraine, rather than on formulations describing Ukraine's invitation to the Alliance or the conditions under which it could happen. In any case, according to Lipavský, it is still too early to predict the decisions of the next NATO summit, which will take place in Washington in the summer of 2024.

On further support for Ukraine

"I am not able to predict the future, so I don't know how this will end, but we know which principles are at stake, and we need to make sure that it ends on our principles, and this is very important: the Charter of UN, the sovereignty of Ukraine nation to decide, – this needs to be kept because if it would be breached, then it would open the door for another conflict like this, and it would be very difficult precedent, and we could see much more wars in the world globally," said Lipavský.

Regarding "Ukraine fatigue" in the West, the minister acknowledged that attention to the Russo-Ukrainian war has diminished due to the war in the Middle East."But it doesn't mean that the threat would be less than one or two years ago," Lipavský noted.

According to him, Ukraine enjoys significant support within NATO; nevertheless, there is a need for more discussion within the Alliance regarding a shared vision of future relations with Russia, support for Ukraine, etc.