President of Ukraine

If we can get rid of grey geopolitical zones, we must do it – speech of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the meeting of the College of the European Commission

24 October 2023 - 12:26

If we can get rid of grey geopolitical zones, we must do it – speech of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the meeting of the College of the European Commission

Ursula, Madam President!

Dear European Commissioners!

I am glad to see you, thanks for your words, for your support, Ursula.

This is a special moment for us. For Ukraine and for the whole Europe. Special not only because of the circumstances that Russia has created against us with its anti-European aggression. It is special because of what we can do… What we can do and are doing. We, all of us, we Europeans. For the sake of greater security and stability across our continent, in our countries, in our homes.

The time since the collapse of the so-called “Eastern Bloc” has shown that the greatest threat to life in Europe is the lack of geopolitical certainty. This deficit, like a magnet, attracted crises and tempted enemies of the European way to fight against European unity. Because if there is even the smallest grey geopolitical zone – claims to dominate this zone will inevitably arise. And various political forces will try to paint this grey zone in their own political colours.

For decades, Europe has remained divided into a territory where our common values are protected by European institutions, and – a territory outside the institutions, but although with the same values. Now – at last – we are a few geopolitical steps-away from eliminating this division. And this is our historic chance, of the whole Europe, – to remove the lack of geopolitical certainty, this source of crises and problems…

All free nations in Europe now clearly see the prospect for themselves – all the states in the Balkans, and in the center and east Europe. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. And Belarus... We see that the old grey geopolitical zones will inevitably be replaced by a new power of the European Union. This is one of the main outcomes of our unity. The EU – designed as a continental project, as a guarantor of good neighbourliness between the nations of Europe – is acquiring a well-deserved continental dimension. It is not a club for the elite, but a home indeed for all European nations who share common values. And the borders of the European Union will be the borders of the continent of Europe – no grey zones!

Our political generation is capable of ensuring this, and I am sure we will not miss this special moment.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Ukrainian faith in the EU has always been one of the strongest on the continent. Ukrainians have been and remain optimistic about the European Union. And our optimism is proved by how strongly the EU stands by its values and helps us defend our freedom and independence.

I am grateful to all of you – both as representatives of the EU and all the EU member states – for all the support provided to Ukraine! Defense, sanctions, humanitarian and financial support. And I would like to emphasize the long-term support programs – in particular, the European Commission’s initiative to create a Financial Instrument for Ukraine. We welcome its approval by the European Parliament on October 17th and expect that this instrument will be finalized by the end of the year so that funding can be launched in January.

And I would like to note the experience of Belgium for the first strong step in Europe regarding the use of frozen Russian assets to compensate for the damage caused by Russia’s aggression. It would be fair – if such a decision was scaled-up to the level of the entire continent. And the next steps should be taken including the confiscation of the aggressor’s assets. This should be Europe’s rule for the world – the aggressor pays the highest price for violating peace.

It is very important to continue to make sanctions pressure on Russia for its aggression effective. The way the free world’s sanctions are working now is a model for how we can put pressure on other disruptors of peace. Every sanction imposed must be one hundred percent effective. The same applies to pressure on intermediaries who help Russia circumvent the sanctions regime.

And now, before the winter, we are actively working with all partners to strengthen our air defense to protect Ukraine – our cities, our people – from Russian terror. The strength of our air shield is a guarantee in particular for our neighbors that Russian terror will not cross the EU’s borders. And I thank all countries and leaders who support us in strengthening our air defense.

And, of course, the key political thing is that we want no trace of the grey geopolitical zone to remain. Ukraine has been implementing the seven recommendations of the European Commission as quickly as possible to enable a political decision to open accession negotiations already this year. We have done a lot, and I would say – much more than could be expected from a country that has been subjected to full-scale aggression. But Ukraine is not asking for political discounts – we demonstrate the necessary political pace. We share the approach that decisions should be based on the individual achievements of countries that seek to become members of the European Union.

The first is our reform of constitutional justice.

We have adopted and started implementing the law on the selection of judges of the Constitutional Court, which is in line with the conclusions of the Venice Commission. We already have a group of experts who will evaluate the candidates – three experts were appointed based on proposals from our international partners as a guarantee of transparency and fairness in the selection of judges. And we are launching the competition.

The second is the reform of the High Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges. The reboot of these key bodies launched the process of renewing the entire judicial system of Ukraine.

The third is anti-corruption work. A law was adopted to restore e-declarations of officials and their verification during martial law. The e-declarations must be public. The state anti-corruption program has been approved. And we are strengthening the existing anti-corruption architecture.

The fourth – we are ensuring that our legislation complies with the FATF requirements. The adoption of the law on politically exposed persons is an extremely important step.

The fifth – we continue to work on protecting society and the state from misuse instigated by oligarchs. Also important antitrust legislation has been adopted.

And the sixth – Ukrainian media legislation has been brought in line with EU standards.

And the seventh – we are affirming the protection of diversity in Ukraine through the protection of the rights of national communities. Respective legislative changes have already been adopted, including the law on national minorities. A clear vision of the next steps in the educational sector has been developed as well. There is also a state target program called Unity in Diversity. All of this opens-up new and broader opportunities for national communities. Together with community representatives, we will ensure compliance with the highest international standards in this area.

For Ukraine, this is a top priority – to be ready for a political decision to start negotiations on EU membership this year. And I hope it is the same for the European Union. We have laid a solid basis for this. The goal now is very special. If we can get rid of grey geopolitical zones, we must do it! Europe needs the European Union. And let Ukrainian optimism about the EU serve a more stable future for the whole Europe!

Thank you very much for your attention! Thanks for your support!

Слава Україні!