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Macron, Scholz, Duda discuss Ukraine, NATO, migration

June 13, 2023

The French president hosted the German and Polish leaders to seek ways of helping Kyiv wrest back land from Russia. Poland's president pressed for a clearer roadmap for Ukraine to join NATO.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda attend a previous news conference
The frequency of meetings between the three countries' leaders has picked upImage: Michel Euler/AP Photo/picture alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday welcomed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda. 

The three gathered to talk about military support for Kyiv's counteroffensive and humanitarian aid to the country after the breach of the Kherson region's Kakhovka dam, while the Polish president pressed the case for Ukraine to gain NATO membership.

"We have done everything to help it," Macron said of Ukraine's counteroffensive. "We have intensified the delivery of ammunition, weapons, and armored vehicles... We will continue in coming days and weeks."

On Monday, Ukraine's military reported new gains, claiming to have recaptured seven villages along a roughly 100-kilometer (60-mile) front in the country's southeast. Macron said he expected the offensive to last several weeks or several months.

"We want it to be as successful as possible so that we can then start a negotiation phase in good conditions," Macron said of the counteroffensive.

Laying groundwork for NATO summit

Duda reached Paris first on Monday for talks with Macron before the arrival of Scholz.

"Ukraine is waiting for an unambiguous signal regarding a clear prospect of membership in NATO," Duda said, ahead of next month's NATO summit in Vilnius.

Ukraine has been urging NATO members to make concrete progress on its accession to the alliance at the July summit.

It wants to see an upgrade for the current NATO-Ukraine Commission to a new NATO-Ukraine Council, which would be a joint consultative forum to promote the discussion of security issues.

Kakhovka dam: Ukraine says 30 still missing in flood

Scholz said that the main focus at present was helping Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia and that "we will also continue to do that for as long as it's necessary, we're prepared for that."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has made it clear in the past that Ukrainian accession is "not on the agenda" during the conflict. 

Nevertheless, Scholz said discussions about further guarantees for Ukraine made sense and should continue. 

"We continue to work intensively on that and it will then be finished once a unanimous concept has emerged from the discussions. But what's clear: we need something like that and need it in a very concrete form," he said.

 Polish President Andrzej Duda, left, French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a joint press conference Monday, June 12, 2023 at the Elysee palace in Paris.
Macron said the meeting showed how talk of divisions between 'old and new Europe' were sometimes overstatedImage: Sarah Meyssonnier/AP/picture alliance

Why France, Germany and Poland?

Tripartite meetings involving Germany, France and Poland — collectively known as the Weimar Triangle — started in 1991 in Weimar, Germany.

The initial aim was to bring Poland, as well as other former Soviet satellite states, closer to the EU and NATO.

While that issue has broadly faded into the background, the meetings were given added vigor and frequency after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The leaders met in February 2022, shortly after the Moscow's full-scale offensive began, and then once more on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in February 2023.

The conflict also highlighted some tensions between Poland, which advocates a tough line on Russia, and France and Germany — both of which have at times faced criticism from Duda's government during the war.

Possible division on EU migration plans

Macron said on Monday that the meeting had shown how there was no division between "old and new Europe," a distinction once drawn by former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when eastern European countries refused to back the western European powerhouses in opposing the Iraq war. 

Yet some frictions were apparent in the shorter question-and-answer session with reporters, for instance when Macron and Scholz said they supported the EU asylum reform deal reached last week in Brussels.

One part of the deal would involve EU countries unwilling to take in refugees being given the option to contribute to a fund managed by Brussels to support those who would host them. 

Duda said his government was still "skeptical" about an agreement the EU says it hopes might be implementable next year.

"We took in those who needed help in Poland... we helped, to be honest, we did not receive any particular help especially from EU institutions," he said. "I hope that no institution in the EU will come up with an idea to punish us for the fact that while still having the perspective of more Ukrainian refugees arriving, we are skeptical about accepting migrants from other directions as well."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misidentified Polish President Andrzej Duda as the country's prime minister. This has been corrected to reflect that he is the president. Poland's premier is Mateusz Morawiecki. We apologize for the error.

rc, msh/jsi (AFP, dpa)