As the Russian army threatens its capital, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a heartfelt speech to European lawmakers on Tuesday, bringing a parliament interpreter to tears.
Zelenskyy made a personal appeal to MEPs – in a video-linked message to a special plenary session as Russian missiles bombard Ukraine – to push for Ukraine’s EU membership in the resolution on which they will vote this afternoon, building on recent calls to grant his country immediate EU membership as it battles a deadly Russian invasion.
“Thousands of people who have been killed, two revolutions, a war and a five-day full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation” is a “very high price” to pay for EU membership, said Zelenskyy.
“I didn’t know that was the price we had to pay, and it’s a tragedy for me, for every Ukrainian, a tragedy for our state,” he said.
“We have proven our strengths,” he added. “We’ve proven that at the very least, we’re just like you. So prove you’re with us, prove you won’t let us go. Prove that you are indeed Europeans.
As the Ukrainian leader spoke about the recent deadly attack on Freedom Square in Kharkiv, a cultural heart of Ukraine, an English-speaking parliament interpreter almost broke down when translating Zelenskyy’s words: “This is the price of freedom. We are fighting only for our land… and for our freedom.
Zelenskyy’s powerful speech was echoed in statements by European leaders that followed.
European Council President Charles Michel said that “it will be up to us Europeans to rise to the occasion”. The European Commission should issue an opinion on Ukraine’s candidate status, and the Council will not ‘shirk’ its responsibilities and will have to ‘seriously analyze the symbolic, political, strong and, I believe, legitimate demand that has been expressed”.
Michel warned, however, that Ukraine’s EU membership would be a long and winding road, and that enlargement is “a difficult subject”, on which member countries have “different opinions”.
European lawmakers gathered in parliament to vote on a resolution on the war in Ukraine. The results will be announced later Tuesday.