Europe Day: the EU stands side by side with those who fight for European values (09/05/2014)

Europe Day (9th of May) – the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration - is a perfect occasion to highlight how European Integration has helped to overcome age old differences and to shape a common future for a large part of the European Continent.  On 9 May 1950 the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman called for the establishment of a common Franco-German authority to govern the coal and steel production of both countries, which had fought each other for centuries. The purpose of the plan was to make war between France and Germany impossible in the future and to spread peace and prosperity globally. Schuman proposed other countries to join the Plan, thus laying the foundation for European Integration. Today, the European Union has reached 28 members and assures peace, stability and mutually beneficial cooperation among them. Several other countries are preparing to become future members of the Union.

The EU serves as an example for partners from other continents, who wish to use similar models of cooperation in order to promote regional stability and provide citizens with new opportunities. The EU produces almost one quarter of the world's GDP and generates more than one third of global trade, which demonstrates the highly competitive nature of the EU's economy. Free Trade Agreements, as concluded with such important partners as South Korea, Canada, Turkey, and being negotiated with USA, Japan and India, provide new economic possibilities for  both producers and consumers.

The EU is not only a community of interests, but first and foremost a community of values. The terrible experience of WWII has led us to turn our back on the aggressive competition between nations which characterised our past, and to launch instead a process of integration and cooperation  as a remedy to war, and to the lack of respect for human lives and rights. Today the EU is engaged in strengthening rules of law and democracy in the member states and promoting the same values internationally. The Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012 for the European Union was given in recognition of the contribution to   peace not only in Europe, but in other regions of the globe too.

Recent events in Ukraine show that the European values of peace, rule of law and democracy cannot be taken  for granted, even on our shared continent.   Democracy is a constant work in progress; we all share a responsibility to safeguard and nurture it. The EU will stand side by side with those who go onto the streets to fight for these values.

The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU offers a new perspective of cooperation in all aspects of policy, from trade to scientific research, from the environment to education, and from energy to mobility of people. With the political part already signed and with the unilateral abolition of trade tariffs for Ukrainian goods by the EU, the new chapter of cooperation has already been opened. Those who do not want a democratic, prosperous and modern Ukraine try to destabilize the country by military intervention and by questioning its territorial integrity against all international rules and principles of relations between countries. Ukraine disposes of enough forces and determination to pass the historical test of   sovereignty and the EU will do everything to assist Ukrainians in fighting for the right to decide independently about their own future.   A solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be based on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and the wishes of the Ukrainian people. The European Union strongly condemns the unprovoked violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and calls on Russia to stop its aggressive actions against Ukraine and its people. It is in the interest of Ukrainians to find ways to overcome the artificially fuelled divisions over the last months without any external unwelcome intervention.

2014 is a special year for the EU. Ten years ago ten new members joined the Union, including several direct neighbours of Ukraine. The 2004 enlargement was a crucial step towards overcoming decades of division on our continent and a symbolic end to the bipolar Europe. Since 2004 three more new members have joined the Union; a testament to the continuing attraction of closer ties with the EU. The success of the 2004 enlargement gives me confidence that Ukraine too will one day follow this path and strengthen its international position and sovereignty significantly.

This year is also special for European citizens. From 22-25 May voters will go to the polls to cast their ballot in the elections to the next European Parliament. This means citizens will have a clear say in what should be the EU's priorities for the next five years. 

Sixty four years ago Robert Schuman took a decisive step towards what we know as the European Union (EU) today. R. Schuman proposed his Plan with the understanding that the future Europe would not be created without difficulties and not in one step. But he understood very well the lesson of past European dramas and was courageous enough to propose such a far-reaching project for the future, at a time that many Europeans were still looking back at the past. Europe is a common task and an obligation for all its citizens and it is up to Europe's leaders to   decide how to respond to the challenges of the future.

At the start of this year, in dramatic circumstances, Ukrainians sent out a call to the rest of Europe that they too want to have the right to participate in shaping the future of Europe. This call will be heard again all over in Europe during these days.   Europe Day 2014 belongs to Ukraine and to its European choice.   Ambassador

Jan Tombiński

Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine