In a spontaneous debate initiated by the EESC President Christa Schweng during the February plenary session, the members of the European Economic and Social Committee condemned the unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. EESC members expressed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and called for firm actions at both EU and national level in a spirit of unity in this dramatic time.
Opening the debate, President Christa Schweng underlined the critical nature of this situation for Europe and stated:
Today, we witnessed an aggression at the doorstep of the EU. Such move constitutes a blatant violation of international law and international agreements, including the Minsk Agreements. In these hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and its civil society, the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives. Europe needs to stand with Ukraine and its civil society!, president. Schweng said.
Many EESC members, leaded by the three groups Presidents, expressed their solidarity and unity to the Ukrainian people and their deep concern on the escalation of the belligerent behaviour shown by the Russian regime.
Stefano Mallia, president of the Employers' Group, highlighted:
The EU is certainly united in a desire for firm action. I was there at Maidan Square and one thing I firmly remember is the huge desire of civil society to form part of Europe, to form part of the EU. And this is something which we must keep on remembering and which we must also try to protect. Ukraine cannot be abandoned. We need to be ready to also pay a price for efforts and actions that need to be taken.
Oliver Röpke, president of the Workers' Group also added:
This is the time for us to oppose and say clearly that, Europe will never allow this. We need to be united and find the answers for this aggression and stand side by side in full solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Trade Unions remember that the war machine is fed with the blood of workers, call for the withdrawal of Russian Troops, and support civil society in both Ukraine and Russia.
In the same spirit, Séamus Boland, president of the Diversity Europe Group, expressed his support:
We are standing at a precipice and we must reach out to civil society organisations in Ukraine. Our European values and principles are at stake and we must speak out loudly against aggression and in favour of the values that Europe has stood for since World War II. Above all, the EU must remain unified and in solidarity with our neighbours.
EESC deeply regrets that all diplomatic efforts to ward off a war conflict were in vain and underlined that values such as democracy, fundamental rights, and the rule of law are non-negotiable. They highlighted the need to be particularly careful when evaluating information from social media and to be wary of potential cyber-attacks.
EESC members called on the EU and its Member States to provide further political, financial, technical, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
The president of the EESC External Relations Section, Dimitris Dimitriadis said
EESC will strive to continue support of the Ukrainian civil society through our well-established channels, such as EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform and through our bilateral contacts.
Closing the debate, Ms. Schweng emphasised:
The reason for building a European Union –that is peace - today is more important than ever. As Europeans we need to stand together in solidarity and with Ukrainian people in order to manage this really difficult and unforeseeable situation.