European Leaders Call Welcoming Ukraine to EU a ‘Point of Pride’
WASHINGTON — Ambassadors of the European Union, Sweden — as holder of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union — and Ukraine, joined the Atlantic Council to discuss Europe’s role in Ukraine’s future this week.
Coming on the heels of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declaring to be by Ukraine’s side “as long as it takes,” and the European Council formally welcoming Ukraine as a candidate for membership in the EU last June, EU nations seem ready to confirm that Ukraine is a part of Europe.
“Our commitment to supporting Ukraine to make all the changes it needs [to join the EU] is ironclad, including the funding that goes with it,” H.E. Stavros Lambrinidis, ambassador of the European Union to the United States, said. “It would be a point of pride for the European Union to welcome Ukraine.”
Ingrid Ask, deputy chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden to the United States, agreed that Europe’s humanitarian, military, and financial support, as well as member states welcoming millions of refugees fleeing the Russian war are “important as a signal to the Ukrainian people that this is where you belong.”
“I see this as a case in which the EU has, in a crisis, once again come even closer together,” Lambrinidis said, acknowledging over a dozen representatives from other EU countries also present to participate in the discussion.
“The EU effort is massive,” he said, citing some €37 billion in financial and humanitarian aid and the equivalent of €12 billion of military support already dedicated to the cause.
“It would have been impossible for America alone to have provided what Ukraine has needed up to now to be able to fight and push back, and it would have been impossible for Europe to have done that alone without the United States.”
But he also pointed out that, unlike the United States, the EU effort required the approval of 27 unique prime ministers and governments.
“EU member states approached the war and the speed with which we should support Ukraine, with different analysis … but it took us maybe a nanosecond to unite behind the fundamental principle that we’re going to give military, economic, and refuge aid to Ukraine — all of us — and we’re going to do it massively and quickly,” Lambrinidis said.
In fact, Europe banded together with unity and swiftness few anticipated last February.
“I don’t think any of us want to live in a world in which large aggressive autocratic countries can attack a neighbor and get away with it,” H.E. Oksana Markarova, ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, suggested.
“The Russian Federation is a threat to so many of us,” she added. “To everyone who believes in the values of democracy and freedom, but also to anyone who simply thinks that territorial integrity and sovereignty is sacred.”
Ask agreed that the fundamental consequences of Russia’s behavior on national security concerns could not be overstated.
“In our own case, it made us abandon over 200 years of military nonalignment in a matter of months and really reappraise our own security architecture and decide to join NATO,” Ask said.
And now, she contended that the Ukraine war is the “backdrop that permeates everything” Sweden is trying to do as it holds the EU presidency for the next few months, especially as it tries to mitigate the global repercussions of food and energy security.
She also acknowledged Europe’s attempts to manage its relationship with Turkey, a member of NATO and an applicant for EU accession, which is at the crossroads of sanctions the U.S. and EU have imposed on Russia, as well as Turkey’s open hostility toward accepting Sweden and Finland into NATO.
Lambrinidis said that despite some rifts such as this, Europe must come together and hold firm with the political and societal resolve the bloc has held over the last year to hold fast to democracy.
“This is not a war of the West against [Russia],” Lambrinidis insisted. “It’s a war of the West and the East, of the North and the South, to support Ukraine in the U.N. charter because if there’s one colonialist power in the 21st century, that’s Russia. This is an existential crisis for all of us.”
Kate can be reached at [email protected]