The European Parliament voted on Tuesday to accept Ukraine’s application to join the European Union (EU) after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a passionate speech before the body.
Zelensky formally signed an application to join the European Union on an expedited basis on Monday after making repeated to calls to allow his country to join the bloc. Zelensky’s calls have received vocal support from some already in the bloc, including the countries of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
After nearly a week of fending off Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky gave an impassioned speech in front of the European Parliament that received a standing ovation and “near-unanimous” support from the body’s members to begin the process of joining Ukraine to the bloc. The parliament vote does not grant Ukraine status of an EU-candidate country.
NEW via @NanaSajaia: The European Parliament accepted Ukraine’s application to join the EU, calling on EU institutions to work towards granting Ukraine status of an EU candidate, thus recognizing Ukraine’s European perspective.
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) March 1, 2022
On Tuesday, it was reported that the Russian military launched a missile strike into Kharkiv’s Freedom Square, a civilian area in the heart of Ukraine’s second-largest city. “This is the price of freedom. We are fighting just for our land. And for our freedom, despite the fact that all of the cities of our country are now blocked,” Zelensky told the European Parliament.
"We desire to see our children alive. I think it's a fair one."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was met with a standing ovation from the European Parliament after a powerful speech that caused the EU translator on the English language feed to choke up with emotion. pic.twitter.com/kTlBGO6GEq
— CNN (@CNN) March 1, 2022
“Every square today, no matter what it’s called, is going to be called Freedom Square, in every city of our country. No one is going to break us. We are strong. We are Ukrainians,” he continued. “We have a desire to see our children alive. I think it’s a fair one.”
“We are fighting for our rights, for our freedoms, for life, for our life, and now we are fighting for survival. And this is the highest of our motivation. But we are fighting also to be equal members of Europe,” said Zelensky, who has overseen the war from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. “The European Union is going to be much stronger with us, that’s for sure. … Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans, and then life will win over death. And light will win over darkness.”
Zelensky’s pleas to join the bloc have gained support from some top officials in the European Union, though Ukraine’s eventual entrance to the alliance remains uncertain. Over the weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Ukraine’s application to the bloc could be fast-tracked under a novel procedure for adding member countries.
In a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday, von der Leyen backed Ukraine’s fight against Russia and endorsed Ukraine’s membership into the European Union. The commission president framed the Russo-Ukrainian conflict as a crisis for all of Europe, a framing that Zelensky has also used. Von der Leyen said in part:
War has returned to Europe. Almost thirty years after the Balkan Wars, and over half a century after Soviet troops marched into Prague and Budapest, civil defence sirens again went off in the heart of a European capital. Thousands of people fleeing from bombs, camped in underground stations – holding hands, crying silently, trying to cheer each other up. Cars lined up towards Ukrainian Western borders, and when many of them ran out of fuel, people picked up their children and their backpacks and marched for tens of kilometers towards our Union. They sought refuge inside our borders, because their country was not safe any longer. Because inside Ukraine, a gruesome death count has begun. Men, women, children are dying, once again, because a foreign leader, President Putin, decided that their country, Ukraine, has no right to exist. And we will never ever let that happen and never ever accept that.
This is a moment of truth for Europe. Let me quote the editorial of one Ukrainian newspaper, the Kyiv Independent, published just hours before the invasion began: ‘This is not just about Ukraine. It is a clash of two worlds, two polar sets of values.’ They are so right. This is a clash between the rule of law and the rule of the gun; between democracies and autocracies; between a rules-based order and a world of naked aggression. How we respond today to what Russia is doing will determine the future of the international system. The destiny of Ukraine is at stake, but our own fate also lies in the balance. We must show the power that lies in our democracies; we must show the power of people that choose their independent paths, freely and democratically. This is our show of force.