Ukraine needs at least 20 years to join the European Union (EU) or Nato, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said during a speech in The Hague on March 3.
Apparently dashing Kyiv's hopes of swifter accession to Western institutions as it tries to move away from Moscow's orbit, Juncker said, "Ukraine will definitely not be able to become a member of the EU in the next 20-25 years, and not of NATO either," dpa news agency reported.
Over the past two years, pro-Western authorities in Kyiv repeatedly voiced their decision to return to the course of Nato and EU integration. At the same time, Russia described the possibility of Ukraine joining Nato as a "red line" in its relations with the West.
In late 2014, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the Kremlin demanded a "100% guarantee" that steps will not be taken to bring Ukraine into the Nato military alliance.
In September 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country and Nato "have never been as close as today", adding that more than 60% of Ukrainians support the idea of joining the alliance. According to Poroshenko, the first goal of Ukraine is to make its army more efficient and combat ready through cooperation with Nato because the threat of Russian invasion remains.
Juncker made his comments in the context of a referendum the Netherlands will hold in April on the EU's landmark Association Agreement with Ukraine. The official added that some Dutch voters have misunderstood the agreement as the first step towards membership.
The unexpected call for a referendum over Dutch ratification of the Association Agreement came about after a group of activists collected 450,000 signatures backing a vote on the issue, far exceeding the 300,000 signatures needed to hold a referendum under Dutch legislation.
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