Let us support civil society in Ukraine that dreams of European values

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It is clear that the latest events in Ukraine have led to the further destabilisation of the country. The EU should now move beyond empty rhetoric and take real action, whilst all eyes in Ukraine look toward Europe to see how it will deal with the situation, writes Jo Leinen.

Jo Leinen MEP (Party of European Socialists, Germany), in his capacity as president of the European Movement International, led the Movement’s delegation to Kyiv on 6 – 8 March 2014, with the aim of establishing a European Movement Ukraine.

In light of the current situation in Ukraine, where peaceful pro-European protests were met with state brutality, that saw the President ousted from office and an illegal occupation of Ukrainian sovereign territory by Russia, the need for common European action seems more prominent than ever.

During our recent mission to Ukraine we worked towards the establishment of a permanent pro-European civil society network and held a plethora of meetings with various Ukrainian actors. Ukrainian society today is deprived of the dreams it deserves. The public movement, which started in November as an expression of dissatisfaction with the rejection of the Association Agreement with the European Union, quickly evolved into an anti-Yanukovich wave. The people whose dreams and hopes were taken away and the country occupied, are now turning their heads towards Europe, awaiting binding decisions and real action against the aggressors.

Ukraine serves as a textbook example of mismanagement of a country. What we as the European Union now need to do is to help this nation build an efficient and democratic system. We should not treat the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which should be signed by the end of March, as a means to struggle with Russia, but as an efficient tool to reinforce the modernisation process, both on the structural, but also the social and political level.

We do not want to unite states, we want to unite people. Civil society in Ukraine has raised its voice and stood up for its rights in the name of Europe. This Europe represents a common set of values, such as the rule of law, respect to the basic human rights and fully-fledged democracy, and it is our obligation as the Members of the European Union, to provide them with the necessary structure and means to build an independent country. I thus call for common European action, economic and political support for Ukraine, real international pressure and sanctions against Russia and the deployment of international observers in Crimea. The international community needs to react strongly and firmly against the violation of human rights and democracy that we are witnessing.

Ukrainians have already shown a great determination in their journey to approach Europe and we should ensure the Ukrainian society has a clear European choice, which guarantees a better life, democracy, freedom, rule of law, justice and economic progress.