Ukraine and its place in Europe and the EU
This contribution to the Leiden Law Blog is written from a personal perspective as a Ukrainian. There is no need to go into detail of the horror of what is happening in Ukraine right now, since everyone can see the constant updates on the news.
Not only is there destruction of cities, which also means destruction of European culture, but many families are being torn apart every day.
As a starting point, it is necessary to point out some historical background. Kyiv and the Ukrainian culture have existed for centuries. Kyivska Rus’ was especially important in relation to European trade and politico-economic issues. With Kyiv being a capital city of Kyivska Rus’, it was considered a well-developed and important city, while Moscow was only a village surrounded by a lot of forests. This glimpse into history shows both how vital Kyiv has been, and how Ukraine has been developing as a country in its own right for centuries.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Ukraine has fought for democracy and freedom for a long time. On the international arena, the outside world already caught a glimpse of this fight back in 2004 with the Orange Revolution, where people protested against anti-democratic elections happening in the country. Later, people once again took the streets in 2014, known as the Euromaidan, due to the refusal of our former President Victor Yanukovych to sign the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and the annexation of Crimea. What the world is now seeing is the continuation of this fight for freedom and democracy, on a much bigger and more brutal scale. We have a hidden word in our coat of arms – ‘volya’ – which means freedom. In a way, this also shows that this drive for freedom which the Ukrainian population has, is to some extent engraved in the Ukrainian identity – an identity which everyone wishes to preserve at any cost. Therefore, Russia can bomb us, invade with its military, but this is not something it can take away from us.
As a last point, speaking from a more professional EU lawyer perspective, and given the official application for EU membership by Ukraine, two points should be mentioned here. Firstly, Ukraine shares many EU values which are similar to EU Member States, and it is fighting very hard to protect them at this very moment. Secondly, of course the road to EU membership is a very long one and many EU candidate states have expressed hesitation towards allowing Ukraine to have a speeded-up procedure. However, considering Ukraine as a candidate country should be granted, and an exception can be made in light of the fact that no other country has ever sent an application for membership while being at war. To conclude, given the harsh reality every Ukrainian is facing right now, and the values of freedom and democracy which we hold so dear in all societies in the 21st century, I think it is also important for each person who is not Ukrainian to think about what this war truly represents.