On October 6, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Brussels for the 22nd Ukraine-EU Summit. Notably, it was the first bilateral summit physically held in Brussels since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. By all accounts, the summit can be considered a great success for Ukraine, as it brought the country ever closer to Europe.
As noted on the EU website: “The EU and Ukraine leaders reaffirmed their continued commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union.” European Council President Charles Michel said after the summit that “Today’s physical meeting is a potent symbol – it shows our steadfast commitment to deepening our relationship with Ukraine.” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell emphasized: “Your progress is our progress. Your security is our security. …We have common borders, history, culture and values. The Ukrainian people sacrifice a lot for their prosperity, for a better future, and this future is part of our future. You can count on us.”
During the summit’s concluding press conference, President Zelenskyy commented: “The foundation of our relations with the European Union is the common values that we share and promote: democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, gender equality. …Further steps of Ukraine’s active cooperation with the European Union were outlined. I can assure you that our plans are ambitious and unprecedented.” He was referring, of course to Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU, which formally entered into force on September 1, 2017 (though parts of it were provisionally applied already in 2014).
Speaking a few days later in Odesa, where he and the visiting president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, had a joint interview with Ukrainian and Polish news media, Mr. Zelenskyy underscored: “For me, the most important thing is that Ukraine be not just a member of the EU, but an equal member. I want Ukraine to be invited to the EU. We want to be at this table of negotiations and values at the same level and with the same status,” He added: “This is important. And we are doing everything to be equal partners.” For his part, President Duda affirmed that “Ukraine has always been in Europe, and the issue of EU membership is a political issue, and it requires changes and many reforms that need to be carried out in Ukraine. …Ukraine is moving towards the EU, and we support it on this path, and my visit is proof of that.”
Clearly, Ukraine continues to reclaim its proper place in Europe. The joint statement released following the summit “acknowledged the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomed its European choice, as stated in the Association Agreement.” It also reaffirmed the emphasis on maintaining Ukraine’s macro-economic stability, recognized the substantial progress made in Ukraine’s reform process and expressed the EU’s continuing support of Ukraine in various spheres, from combatting hybrid threats to implementing the visa-free regime for Ukraine, and spoke of “further enhancing economic cooperation and regulatory approximation” in numerous fields.
The statement also expressed “unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders” and “strong condemnation of the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces since February 2014,” referring to both the annexation of Crimea and the Donbas conflict. In addition, the EU stated its support for “the endeavors of the Normandy format, the OSCE, the Trilateral Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine,” and “agreed to continue cooperating to address the socio-economic and humanitarian consequences” of the Russian-fomented war in Ukraine’s east. Nor was the downing of MH17 forgotten – the joint statement “called on the Russian Federation to accept its responsibility and to cooperate fully with all efforts to establish accountability” for the passenger jet’s shootdown.
The October 6 summit, then, was yet another milestone in Ukraine’s inexorable move westward. As has been demonstrated throughout its history and most recently during the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine is Europe.