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Why does Ukraine deserve more? Seven key arguments. By Bohdan Ferens

Bohdan Ferens
Founder, SD Platform of Ukraine /

When there is a war in your country, any positive news gives you the opportunity to be filled with hope for victory and a better future. One such piece of news was the recent opinion of the European Commission on the need to grant Ukraine candidate status for EU membership. It should be recalled that such an application for membership, signed by the President, Speaker and Prime Minister of Ukraine, was submitted in the first days of the war. Already in the coming days, a meeting of the EU Summit is planned, at which the issue of granting Ukraine such a status will be discussed. The visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Kyiv on the eve of the Summit was a good signal for all EU member states to support Ukraine on its path to the EU.

While Ukraine appears to be getting candidate status, there is still a lot of skepticism in European capitals about its future prospects for joining the European Union. In this regard, it should be noted that a rather restrained attitude to this issue is inherent not only in part of the conservatives, but also in the second most influential political force in the EU, and in many countries even in the first – the Social Democrats. And such an approach does not quite correlate with the value ideological basis, which should always be aimed at
solidarity and openness in the context of integration processes, even outside of wartime.

Indeed, Ukraine still has a lot to do in terms of fighting corruption, establishing the rule of law, and reforming social and economic policies. But, despite this, the situation after the full-scale invasion of Russia has changed dramatically. Not acknowledging the fact that Ukraine deserves more from the EU may seem rather imprudent. Especially if there is a desire to understand this and take into account the arguments below.

1. Young students, elderly fathers, female volunteers die on the front every day. The breaking news line showing the numbers of schools and hospitals destroyed by Russian missiles is no longer as terrifying as it was at the beginning of the war. Unfortunately, people are starting to get used to these terrible statistics. Hundreds of civilians are dying under the rubble of bombed- out houses. They made completely different plans for life after New Year 2022, in which there was definitely no place for war and death. This is a new reality in which Ukrainians live. The price of freedom and the desire to become a full
part of the European Community is too high. It is measured by tens of thousands of dead civilians, including more than three hundred children killed by Russian troops, destroyed cities and infrastructure. For more than four months, the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people have been resisting new and new attacks by the Russian occupiers in various directions.

2. The very weak reaction of the West to the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and military actions in the Donbass allowed Putin and his entourage to carry out the most unjustified and brutal invasion since the Second World War. This attack was laced with clearly imperialist ideas in order to restore the so- called “sphere of influence” in the post-Soviet space, thereby indirectly threatening not only partner countries from Eastern Europe, but the entire Western world. Aggression also entails a systemic element. Putin’s Russia promotes a model of an autocratic state, using Russism as an ideological overlay of military expansionism and national cult, in contrast to the democratic order that countries like Ukraine aspired to.

3. The prerequisites for the end of the war are not yet observed, so it is necessary to be prepared for a protracted confrontation and support for Ukraine in its struggle. This support primarily provides for the provision of weapons, financial and humanitarian assistance. The position of the progressive left in this regard should be very clear – maximum support for the Ukrainian people, since Russian bombs and troops cannot be stopped only with the help of pacifism. Diplomacy failed. This, unfortunately, must be
stated as a fact. But any war sooner or later ends with a truce. Diplomatic efforts alone are not enough for achieving this goal. Putin understands only the language of force, and not only the future of Ukraine, but also a new system of European, and perhaps global security, will depend on the success of the Ukrainian army at the front.

4. The reconstruction of Ukraine must already begin. There is no need to wait for the end of the war to renew the infrastructure and rebuild the bombed-out cities. Tens of thousands of people need a roof over their heads, and children in many villages and cities that were under temporary occupation dream of starting the new school year in renovated schools. All these tasks cannot be carried out without the help of Western partners, including the UK, in the short and long term. Rebuilding post-war Ukraine will require a lot of financial and human resources. We need to be realistic and understand that not all Western partners will be ready to provide such resources. Domestic problems, the
repercussions of the pandemic, the recession, and some weariness from the Russian war against Ukraine may prevent such assistance from being provided. In this regard, politicians, decision makers and citizens play a key role, as the level of support will depend on their involvement and empathy with Ukraine.

5. It is also necessary to take more radical steps that will allow Ukraine to overcome the financial and economic crisis. Such a step could be the cancellation of sovereign debt, or at least part of this debt, since the financial system was not particularly capable of covering external debts on loans in the pre-war period, and what can we say when there is a war. The provided monetary assistance should have a targeted application and transparent monitoring distribution system. First of all, the results of the use of this assistance should be seen by ordinary people in the construction of residential buildings, bridges, the repair of social infrastructure, the provision of basic needs and social guarantees. New jobs must be created so that people who are already unemployed today can feed themselves and their families. Another serious problem is the decrease in the level of financial transfers from labor migrants (many men went to the front or cannot leave the country to work), which traditionally helped support the economy.

6. It is impossible to resolve all these problems without a deep restructuring of Ukraine itself. The political elites should get rid of the politicians of the past and oligarchs as much as possible, and the Ukrainian society, which has gone through such difficult trials, should be more demanding of itself and those who are elected to defend their interests. There should be parties in parliament that will not only strengthen the defense sector and build up military power, but also prioritize education and the social sphere, protect labor rights and fight against the infringement of marginalized groups. In times of war, the most vulnerable always suffer. The main task of the progressive left is not to live by the slogans of the past, but to try to act now, in spite of any difficulties. Trade unions should also be modernized in Ukraine. Only new leaders and fresh approaches can fill the trade union movement with new vitality in order to better protect worker’s rights in the post-war period.

7. Solidarity in this difficult time is filled with a very practical meaning. The participation of representatives of European social democratic parties in support of Ukraine will allow not only to integrate our societies, but also to strengthen opposition to Putin’s Russia. Such support may include very real actions, such as visits to Ukraine, support for legislative initiatives aimed at helping the Ukrainian people, increased sanctions against Russia, including Russian oligarchs, politicians and their families who own expensive real estate
and assets in European capitals, investigations connects Russian financial and industrial groups with the European political establishment.

The European Parliament has repeatedly stressed that Ukraine, as a European state, has a European perspective and can apply to join the European Union. On 1 March, the European Parliament, representing the will of almost 500 million European citizens, called on the EU institutions to work for Ukraine’s EU candidate status and to continue working towards our integration into the EU’s Single Market.

The European Commission also provided a positive opinion on the candidate status. The final word remains for the EU Summit, where there is hope that all the leaders of the EU member states will show their political far-sightedness on the future fate of the European continent.