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How Ukraine has continuously fought for European values

Euromaidan protesters hold EU and Ukrainian flags in the center of Kyiv in winter of 2013-2014
Euromaidan protesters hold EU and Ukrainian flags in the center of Kyiv in winter of 2013-2014
How Ukraine has continuously fought for European values
Article by: Mark Temnycky
As EU leaders gather for an informal summit in Paris to discuss Ukraine’s application for fast-track membership, submitted by President Zelenskyy amid a Russian invasion, it’s worth recalling how Ukraine has fought for European values, starting from Euromaidan. Russia’s war against Ukraine is basically a war against Ukraine’s European choice.

On 1 November 1993, the European Union was born. The organization, established by the Maastricht Treaty, stated that it would promote “peace, its values, and the well-being of its citizens.” The organization would champion freedom and democracy in Europe, and it would protect the rights and equality of all citizens.

Now, as Russia wages its war on Ukraine, it is time for the European Union to keep its promise of protecting the human rights of all citizens. While this Eastern European state is not a member of this European body, the Ukrainians have shown their deep desire to join this organization.

What does the EU mean to Ukraine? How have the citizens of this country fought for Europe’s democratic principles and values?

After many deliberations with European leaders in November 2013, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych chose not to sign an association agreement with the European Union. This decision shook his country.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians gathered at Kyiv’s Maidan (or independence square), where they protested his decision. These citizens believed that an association agreement with the EU would help lead to significant economic opportunities and democratic prosperity in Ukraine.

For several months, people of all ages, professions, ethnicities, and religions came to the maidan to protest Yanukovych’s decision. They demanded better social and economic opportunities for Ukraine, and this movement would lead to Ukraine’s “Revolution of Dignity,” or Euromaidan.

The protests escalated in February 2014. Yanukovych’s government ordered special forces to fire upon these peaceful protestors.

In a series of clashes between these civilians and the special forces, over one hundred activists would be killed. They would posthumously be commemorated for their courage, patriotism, and selfless service to Ukraine.

The events that followed led to Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in the spring of 2014. This incursion has resulted in the displacement of nearly two million and the deaths of over 14,000.

Despite these travesties, the Ukrainians continued to pursue their desire to integrate with Europe. During the first Russian invasion in 2014, Ukraine rewrote its constitution to express its desire to join Western organizations. It then underwent a series of anti-corruption reforms. Europe commended this Eastern European state for these changes, and Ukraine was granted visa-free travel to the European Union.

While there was much work to be done, it appeared that this Eastern European state was on the path toward integrating with the EU. A political shift had emerged in Ukraine.

But now this country is under siege. On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine.

This decision will be catastrophic. Russia’s war has already led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent lives. It is expected that millions of Ukrainians will also flee the country.

Nonetheless, the Ukrainians have not abandoned their hopes of true freedom and democracy.

As Ukraine continues to fight for its survival, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy submitted a formal application to the EU for potential membership. The European Parliament reviewed this document, and in a near-unanimous decision, the organization recommended that the EU give Ukraine candidate status in its organization.

The EU will now review Ukraine’s application. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola expressed that they will support Ukraine’s appeal to join the EU. Meanwhile, European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič stated the European Union wants Ukraine to become a member state “as soon as possible.”

Based on this positive reception, European Council President Charles Michel announced that the Western organization will “discuss Ukraine’s membership application in the coming days.” Should the EU formally invite this Eastern European state to join its organization, this would be a historic day for Ukraine.

Overall, the events unfolding in this Eastern European state have reminded the world what people are willing to sacrifice to achieve true freedom and democracy in their countries. It has also reminded the globe that it is worth fighting for these values.

Ukrainian citizens became united behind European democratic thoughts and principles in 2014. Today, Europe has shown that it stands firmly with Ukraine. Therefore, it is time to welcome this Eastern European state into the EU.

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