- Austria's foreign minister showed opposition to Ukraine becoming a full EU member.
- Alexander Schallenberg said a path other than full EU membership could be negotiated for Ukraine.
- Ukraine called his comments "strategically short-sighted and not in the interests of the united Europe."
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Austria's foreign minister voiced his opposition to Ukraine becoming a full member of the European Union — a move that could create a barrier to Ukraine joining the bloc.
Alexander Schallenberg spoke at a media summit in the Austrian town of Lech am Arlberg on Saturday, where he said that the EU and Ukraine should consider alternative ways to strengthen their ties amid Russia's invasion rather than have Ukraine become a full member.
"A connection to a state like Ukraine does not necessarily have to happen through full membership," he said, according to the Austrian tabloid Heute.
He said that there were options for connections with Ukraine without having to make it a full EU member, the Austrian newspaper Die Presse reported.
Schallenberg said officials were currently thinking in "ready-made templates," and that a new type of alliance could be created instead, Heute reported.
This could mean fully integrating Ukraine with EU states in certain ways, such as in energy, but without Ukraine becoming a full, formal member, he said according to Heute.
The EU had offered Ukraine a sped-up path to membership earlier this month in light of Russia's invasion.
"It will not be, as usual, a matter of years, but rather a matter of weeks," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Schallenberg did not explicitly offer a reason for his opposition, but he noted that other countries had been trying to join the EU for years.
He said that while Europe had the "right focus on Ukraine," it should not mean that those other countries' efforts to join the EU should be forgotten, Heute reported.
Serbia, for example, officially applied to join the EU in 2009, but negotiations about its membership are still underway.
Schallenberg's comments suggest Austria could impact Ukraine's efforts to join the EU.
All EU member states must unanimously agree for a country's membership negotiations to begin. Any objection from Austria could draw out the process during negotiations and impact how they go, the Australian Broadcasting Company noted.
Ukraine said it was disappointed by Schallenberg's comments.
Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, told the Ukrinform news agency that the country considers Schallenberg's beliefs "to be strategically short-sighted and not in the interests of the united Europe."
"Such statements also ignore the fact that the vast majority of the population of the EU founding member states support Ukraine's membership," Nikolenko said.