On Sunday 1st of December more than 350,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Kiev against the decision of the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych to delay an association agreement with the European Union.
The occupation of the Maidan Square in the center of Kiev, heart of the Orange Revolution in 2004, renamed the Euro-Maidan caused a violent police reaction injuring at least 190 protesters . Ten days later the square is still full and the pro-European opposition still hopes to make the President change his position.
The official explanation for the failure of the negotiations is the condition imposed by the Europeans to transfer to Germany the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for health reasons, who was convicted for abuse of power and sentenced to seven years of prison in 2011. Behind this strange equation of the situation of a political fugue and the collective destiny of a nation looms the shadow of the new tsar. Since the Orange Revolution, Putin’s Russia has constantly been working towards returning Ukraine in its sphere of influence. Electoral victories of Yanukovych in 2006 (parliament ) and 2010 ( presidential ) already reflected this effort, however, the rejection of the agreement with the EU is the real milestone of success for this regional diplomacy of dollars and gas.
So, the first lesson of Kiev is that Putin continues to divide Europe in the best tradition of the tsars and Stalin. And for 20 years, member states favor their bilateral relations and are often not able to speak with one voice and have a consistent position towards Russia. The EU must now hold the door open for Ukraine and support this new movement carried by the youth and students. Support must be provided to those who raise their voice against Yanukovych and his policies. For this reason, we ask not only a debate in the European Parliament on the situation in Ukraine, but also a parliamentary delegation to Kiev to show that we do not abandon them, that the European Union stands the pressure of Putin.
GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images
The second lesson of Kiev is for us, the disenchanted Europeans : at a time when identity and sovereignty crisis troubles our societies pushing us into Euroscepticism to the point of questioning the construction of Europe and its achievement, we should see that here at our doors hundreds of thousands people claim their belonging to this Europe and want to join the ship that we perceive as sinking.
No place for cynicism : if the Ukrainians thought only of the European subsidies, they would readily accept the Russian offer that is equally generous and forgoes the bureaucratic burden. Let us make no mistake : it is a choice between two models, between two value systems. It is a choice between returning to the Russian sphere, the authoritarian « democrature » President Putin or joining a community of rights and values where there is the rule of law guaranteeing its citizens’ protection against arbitrary power even though it is experiencing a terrible crisis at the moment.
Let us raise our little nose from our own misfortunes of widespread social despair that feeds the temptation of withdrawal and rejection ofthe idea of Europe by an increasing number of Western citizens and hear these messages of hope. The great lesson of Kiev is that for many people around the world, especially in the Southern and East borders of the Schengen area, Europe remains an ideal, a horizon to join that represents hope and a better future. If this were not the case, all these people would not face the harsh Ukrainian winter and the brutality of the police , or they might not take makeshift rafts to cross the Mediterranean by the thousands in inhumane conditions to live their « European dream » .
Let us stop behaving like spoiled children of democracy and stop Europe from being shy. Today, we are all Ukrainian protesters, we are all Europeans.
José Bové MEP EELV , a member of the Greens – EFA Group
Rebecca Harms Co- Chair of the Greens -EFA Group in the European Parliament
Photo credits : GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images