President of Ukraine

Joint statement on International Children's Day by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Ursula von der Leyen

1 June 2023 - 14:21

On the occasion of the International Children's Day on 1 June, President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, met on the sidelines of the Second meeting of the European Political Community, and issued the following joint statement:

Every child has the right to be free, protected and kept safe.

However, Russia's war of aggression is depriving Ukrainian children of these rights.

First, we vehemently condemn illegal deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children, adding to the list of Russia's war crimes.

We urgently call upon Russia to immediately stop these deportations, to put an end to the practice of so-called ‘expedited adoptions' and return these children.

The time will come to bring to justice the perpetrators of these war crimes, for which the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants. We welcome the creation of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine.

In meantime, we are committed to do all that is needed to establish the whereabouts of deported Ukrainian children, facilitate their safe return, and provide them with essential social, medical, and educational support upon their return.

President Zelenskyy's "BRING KIDS BACK UA" plan can play a crucial role in this endeavour.

Second, the war is having a devastating impact on all Ukrainian children, often leaving profound psychological scars. Children endure tremendous stress, anxiety, and can suffer from psychological trauma and mental disorders.

Our priority is to ensure their mental health and closely monitor their well-being.

So we pledge to establish a specialised e-learning program for paediatricians and primary care medical staff. Through this initiative, we will equip healthcare professionals with the necessary skills to provide trauma care and improve children's mental health conditions. We are committed to offering specialised rehabilitation services to distressed children in both Ukraine and the European Union. We will also cooperate on the implementation of the comprehensive All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program and its corresponding reform.

Third, the children of Ukraine deserve a bright future, now and after the war. We will be joining forces towards this goal.

We are dedicated to supporting Ukraine's child protection reform. We will provide both financial assistance and expert support to facilitate a comprehensive childcare reform, focusing on family-based forms of upbringing, and on the protection of children. The European Commission has committed to supporting Ukraine's childcare reform, with a pledge of 10 million euros.

In this regard, we welcome the establishment of the EU Project Office in Ukraine under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which will design the childcare reform strategy for children's development and protection, and coordinate its implementation.

Enrolment in the education system is crucial for childhood development and the acquisition of important social skills. So we pledge to work together to safeguard every Ukrainian child's right to access education. Additionally, we will continue rehabilitating schools in Ukraine damaged or destroyed by the war.

Finally, approximately 1.3 million Ukrainian children currently reside in the EU. The Temporary Protection Directive has been instrumental in providing these displaced Ukrainian children with immediate access to healthcare, education, and other social systems within the EU. We are committed to continue ensuring their proper enrolment in education, and work towards the mutual recognition of their learning outcomes.

The plight faced by the children of Ukraine remains a constant concern in our thoughts and hearts. We will continue to strive for a just and enduring peace in Ukraine – tirelessly. So the people of Ukraine can choose their destiny, rebuild a strong and prosperous country and give their children all the chances, all the opportunities to live healthy and happy lives.