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EU door still open for Ukraine: Swedish MEP
Pro-European Union activists shout slogans during a rally in Kiev. Photo: AP

EU door still open for Ukraine: Swedish MEP

Published: 09 Dec 2013 17:01 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Dec 2013 17:01 GMT+01:00

As protesters take to the streets in Ukraine to demonstrate their desire to move closer to the EU, Swedes and other champions of democracy and citizens' rights can't afford to stand idly by and watch, argues Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström.

There is no doubt that Viktor Yanukovych, the President of Ukraine, cares more about maintaining his grip on power than working for what's best for his citizens and country. After having been indecorously blackmailed by Russia, with threats of frozen deliveries of goods, oil and gas, Yanukovych recently rejected a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU. Few predicted that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians would take the streets in protest, fighting for the EU-deal to be signed.

It is obvious that the citizens of Ukraine see the EU as a guarantor of liberty, democracy, and justice and that they value this more than Russia's false promises and cheap loans. They see their future as secured, provided that Ukraine approaches the EU and are expressing their readiness to contribute to this project of peace and democracy.

In Sweden, we often take the benefits of EU-membership for granted. For us, it is natural to drive through Europe without having to queue at border controls; to be able to live and work wherever we want within the union; to have the opportunity to study for free at the European universities through generous programmes like Erasmus and having our universities involved in major cross-border research projects. Not to mention the benefits we get by being part of the single market. It's hard to imagine a return to a situation where businesses wouldn't be able to sell their goods and services freely in all the 28 member states, without limiting trade barriers, or that our civil rights and liberties would no longer be guaranteed or protected by the EU and its institutions.

To ensure a safe and peaceful Europe in future, it's natural to continue the enlargement of the EU. Currently, Ukraine is far from being a full member, but the association agreement would have been a first step. However, the agreement does not only include opportunities. There are also requirements, such as implementing major reforms the judiciary and Ukraine's electoral system.

In a way, the frozen negotiations are a sign of the strength of the EU. It proves that we are not willing to sacrifice the fundamental values on which the union is based in return for a signature. The fact remains that opposition leader Julia Tymoshenko must be released from prison before any further steps can be taken.

Globalization has led to an increasing international competition and we know that not even the strongest European countries, such as Germany, are able to stand on their own in the future. The era of single nation states is over. The only way to continue to have a seat at the G8 table, where the world's strongest economies meet, is through deeper European cooperation, where all member states are represented by the EU, rather than on their own. That is what the wise citizens of Ukraine have realized after having suffered through many years of Russian repression and subjugation.

Being alone doesn't mean being strong. Now we must all show and express our support for and solidarity with the Ukrainians who are fighting for their democratic rights and a closer relationship with the EU. Their struggle for freedom, transparency, and democracy must be supported and respected. When the principles of democracy and civil rights are violated, whether in an EU member state or in a neighbouring country, we must never stand by passively and watch as terrible things transpire, but instead unceasingly condemn the abuses and protect the values to which all humans are entitled.

It is clear that Yanukovych, through his brutal violence against protesters, has lost the people's trust and respect. An agreement will be signed as soon as he has resigned. The doors to the EU remain open for Ukraine.

Cecilia Wikström, Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) Member of the European Parliament 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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