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Olivier Védrine: We called for Ukraine’s EU membership the day Russia invaded

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As Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine on the morning of 24 February 2022,  Olivier Védrine, Director of the Association Jean-Monnet (AJM), published “Kyiv’s Appeal”, launching a campaign to allow Ukraine to join the European Union. Henri Malosse, the former Chairman of the AJM, has also supported this process since the beginning. Both men participated in a discussion hosted by Pascal Junghans of AJM, to explain the genesis of their work to and the consequences of the decision taken on 23 June 2022 by the Union to accept the candidacy of Ukraine as a future member.

Association Jean-Monnet: What is the meaning of "Kyiv's Appeal"?

Olivier Védrine: I lived in Kyiv for several years and also worked with the Russian opposition to Putin. I took part in the Maidan revolution (the Maidan revolution, named after Kyiv’s central square, took place between 18 and 23 February 2014 and resulted in the formation of a pro-European government). Before the outbreak of Russian aggression, I could feel the risk of war when no one believed in it. I published an analysis of the different aggression scenarios on 2 February 2022. I also felt the very strong demand from the Ukrainians for Europe.

So, on 21 February 2022, I published “Kyiv’s Appeal” in the Kyiv Post, wishing that the Union would prove itself worthy of Jean Monnet, who called for strengthening Europe with the people. “Kyiv’s Appeal” demanded that the process of Ukraine joining the Union be initiated without delay. On 24 February 2022, this appeal was published by La Tribune de Genève.

It had an immediate and significant impact in the enlightened circles of the Union and in Ukraine. Members of the Rada (Ed.: the Ukrainian National Assembly) shared the Appeal which then reached the Presidency. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenski, then repeated a number of points from the Appeal in his speeches.

Henri Malosse: Russia’s aggression did not begin in 2022. The war began in 2014 and more than 15,000 have died on both sides. We had to react. And the European solution was obvious to Ukraine.

Its membership, within the framework of European sovereignty, which we supported, with Philippe Laurette, in 2008, was supposed to be the main prospect for this country.

Olivier Védrine and I were at the forefront of the Maidan revolt in 2013/2014 and were both decorated with the prestigious order of Saint Vladimir for our support of the Ukrainian people – this is our legitimacy!

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Olivier Védrine: Indeed. Ukraine’s membership of NATO is a casus bello for Russia. We need to acknowledge the geopolitical realities. Giving Ukraine candidate status is breathing life into the Ukrainian people and giving them considerable hope without representing a provocation for Putin.

Pascal Junghans: what will Ukraine’s path be in its possible integration into the Union?

Olivier Védrine: This candidate status is not a blank slate; it must be accompanied by real political will on the part of the Ukrainian government.

This requires profound reforms. First, in the fight against corruption. We know that the Ukrainian oligarchs will want to slow down the process, which is a sign of their loss of political and economic power. But the people want to accelerate. The Maidan revolution, which was a product of civil society, already had anti-corruption demands. It is the people who are right.

As Europeans, we must support them. The second learning is that of democracy, which Ukraine has little experience of. The country must therefore make considerable efforts, no longer have candidates in elections systematically presented by oligarchs and work towards gender equality, etc.

Henri Malosse: Ukraine’s candidate status must strengthen the rule of law. We must not bury our heads in the sand. We know that, today, the Kyiv government bans parties – some are pro-Russian, but not all. We are also very concerned about the strength and activities of far-right groups.

Olivier Védrine: Of course, we must keep an eye on this. But the banned parties were undermining the war effort. This is not very clever on the part of the authorities, but we must understand without necessarily accepting. Far-right groups are not well represented in the Rada.

Pascal Junghans: How is this membership positive?

Olivier Védrine: Ukraine’s membership process is a strong political and geopolitical symbol. Above all, it demonstrates that Europe is not a technocracy but values, a project. It shows that for Jean Monnet and the other founding fathers, Europe always defends fundamental humanist ideas.

Pascal Junghans: what are the risks of this membership?

Olivier Védrine: This is certainly not a geopolitical risk of possible direct confrontation with Russia. This country already has a common border with the Union, through the Baltic states. And, for now, the EU is not considered as a geopolitical entity by Putin.

However, there is a real economic risk. In the Soviet era, Ukraine had a developed and diversified industry.

Since 1991, the economy has collapsed and evolved towards agriculture and the extraction of raw materials. The Lugano Plan, decided on 5 July 2022, provides $750 billion for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

This new "Marshall Plan" must not be diverted by the oligarchs and must not feed a Danaid’s Barrel. It must truly allow Ukraine to join the concert of developed nations.

Henri Malosse: Since 2008, with Philippe Laurette, we have promoted a European project open to all European peoples, provided that the rule of law is respected and that they join the single market.

It is the role of the Association Jean-Monnet to help the Ukrainian people, through the development of exchanges, on their long road to the Union.

In 2008, together with Philippe Laurette, we came to meet the Ukrainians to make them aware of the Monnet method and told them that the European project was open to all European peoples. Ukraine, but also Russia one day, may be able to join the European family, provided that we respect the rule of law, our democratic values and have the capacity to join the single market.

It is the role of the Association Jean-Monnet to help the Ukrainian people, through the development of exchanges, on their road to the Union as quickly as possible because it is about the peace and stability of our continent.

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