Address by President von der Leyen to Members of Verkhovna Rada

Thank you, Chairman Stefanchuk, dear Ruslan,

Members of the House,

Honourable Members of the Rada,


It is such an honour to address you in this House of Ukrainian democracy. As I stand in this majestic hall, my heart is full of emotions. Admiration, for your courage and endurance. Grief, for all the suffering that Russia has inflicted upon your beloved country. Respect, for all the incredible legislative work that this House has carried forward, even as you fight an existential war. But the strongest of all feelings is gratitude. All of Europe owes you deep gratitude for all you have done since the beginning of this brutal war. You are fighting not only for your freedom, your democracy and your future, but for ours too. You are fighting for Europe. This is something we are painfully aware of. Dear Members of the Rada, dear people of Ukraine, Duzhe dyakuyu.

On a wall of one of the Parliament's buildings, there is a beautiful mural by French artist Christian Guémy. This mural reminds us of the deep ties between the people of Ukraine and the rest of Europe, but also of your courage and determination. The mural shows a hero of Ukraine's resistance, Oleksandr Matsiyevsky. You all know his story. He was captured by Russians in the battle of Bakhmut. They made him dig his own grave. And they executed him – in one of too many war crimes of this bloody war. But as Oleksandr looked at his killers, there was no fear on his face. He stood defiantly in front of them. And he said two simple words. Words of freedom. Words of pride. Words that meant that Russia will never win this war. And now those words are forever etched on that wall and in the hearts of all the free people of the world: Glory to Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.

Oleksandr Matsiyevsky has become a national hero because you all share his spirit. All Ukrainians are standing up against Russian brutality. And in front of your bravery, there is only one thing that we, in the rest of Europe, must do. And that is to stand alongside Ukraine for as long as it takes. This is why, next week, we are announcing our 12th package of sanctions against Russia. The new sanctions shall include up to 100 new listed individuals, new import and export bans, actions to tighten the oil price cap, and tough measures on third-country companies which circumvent the sanctions. For too long, many in Europe thought that we could trade with Russia and integrate it into Europe's security order. But it has not worked. And it will not work as long as Russia's actions are driven by delusional dreams of empire. This is one crucial lesson that you, the people of Ukraine, have taught us throughout this war. So, we shall not repeat the mistakes of 2014. And we will continue to apply maximum pressure against Russia, until the end of the aggression and until Ukraine has re-established a just and lasting peace.

Indeed, Europe is learning a lot from Ukraine. This is a message you do not hear often enough. The people of Ukraine do not need to learn how to be European. You are European. And when President Zelenskyy addressed the European Council last week, he spoke as a European leader. Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has proven so much. You are showing the power of democracy. You are showing the power of ingenuity. And you are showing the power of European values. These are the three main topics that I would like to focus on today. And here, in front of the elected representatives of the Ukrainian people, I can only start with the power of democracy.

I remember very well when, one year ago, we presented the seven necessary steps to accompany Ukraine's candidate status on its way towards the European Union. Some said they were too ambitious. But your reaction was extraordinary. All your democratic institutions have mobilised at maximum to fulfil the desire of the Ukrainian people. As President Zelenskyy said, you did not ask for discounts or shortcuts. Instead, you have shown that Ukrainian democracy can deliver. The breadth and depth of the reforms you have passed is amazing and astonishing: The constitutional justice reform. The selection of the High Council of Justice. The Anti-Corruption Programme. Progress against money laundering. Important measures to curb the oligarchs' grip on your public life. The new media law. And progress on national minorities. We know that this has not always been easy. But this is the normal path of any democracy. We discuss. We disagree. We discuss even harder. Then, we find solutions. And then, we deliver.

And you have made great strides, much greater than anyone expected from a country at war. You are undergoing deep reforms, while fighting a full-scale war. The goal is truly within reach. Continuing to strengthen even further your anti-corruption efforts, passing the law on lobbying, strengthening the asset declaration framework in two aspects and addressing the remaining recommendations of the Venice Commission on national minorities, including education – these are measures that are necessary to fulfil completely the seven steps. You can make it. And you can make it swiftly. You have already completed way over 90%. And we will continue to provide all the technical and political support you need. I am confident that you can reach your ambitious goal: That is, for the historic decision to open the process of accession negotiations to be taken already this year.

Honourable Members,

Dear friends,

My second point has to do with the economy of this country and the ingenuity of the Ukrainian people. Let me tell you the story of a young Ukrainian talent called Valentyn Frechka. He was only 17 when he invented a new technology to make paper from fallen leaves. Together with a local entrepreneur, he launched a start-up called Releaf. They got in touch with cities that were eager to get rid of tonnes of fallen leaves. And they started producing paper-bags for companies that were willing to go green, without cutting one single tree. Then, in 2021, you, the Verkhovna Rada, passed legislation to ban plastic bags – in line with the European Green Deal. And this has given a boost to businesses like Releaf. Now, despite the war and thanks to EU funding, this promising Ukrainian company is expanding, and selling its products all across Europe. This is just a snapshot of this country's immense talent. Ukraine is a nation of innovators, not only a country of big farms and heavy industries, but of bright young minds who are already shaping Ukraine's clean and digital future.

Yes, Ukraine's financial needs are staggering. But so is Ukraine's economic potential. And Europe wants to invest in you. This is why we have proposed the Ukraine Facility, an unprecedented EUR 50 billion support plan for Ukraine's economy. It would be financed with grants from the EU budget and loans raised on the capital market. And we are working to also make use of the proceeds of the immobilised sovereign Russian assets. The Facility will support Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction over the next four years. To put this into perspective, this would be more than any European country received under the US Marshall Plan that rebuilt Western Europe after World War II. And you deserve it, your country deserves it.

A critical task is now to make the very best use of these funds. This is why we have developed together the Ukraine Plan. Through this Plan, you can re-imagine the Ukraine of tomorrow. It is your chance not only to rebuild but to recast your economy, through a coherent agenda for reform and investment. You can shape a better future and a better country for your young generations, while continuing on your path to the European membership. And the Ukraine Plan will not only drive Europe's support. It can also provide guidance and coordination for international donors, in Ukraine's interest. So, it is now up to you to show the world your ambition for the future of Ukraine.

Honourable Members,

People of Ukraine,

Two months ago, I decided to conclude my State of the European Union Address with the words of Victoria Amelina. Victoria Amelina was a Ukrainian writer, a mother and an activist for human rights. She was killed by Russia in a massacre of civilians in the city of Kramatorsk. Victoria Amelina believed that this war has taught a lot to Ukrainians. You have learnt that you can count on each other. And you have also learnt that you can count on your fellow Europeans. Today, we feel that we belong to one family and one home, because, in the words of Victoria: ‘Home is where we trust each other.' But this war has also taught a lot to the rest of Europe. And the most important lesson of all stands right before our eyes. It is the power of this flag, our blue flag with yellow stars, that you have decided to bring here – and I very well remember the ceremony – in the heart of Ukrainian democracy, here in this hall.

Perhaps too often we forget what this flag stands for. It means freedom and democracy. It means peace and prosperity. It is a symbol of age-old values, and it is a symbol of hope. And you have reminded us of that. You are teaching to all of us the true meaning of Europe. This is the spirit that leads me here today. And like me, all European leaders who have come to Kyiv in over 600 days of war. We bring the solidarity of European citizens. But we do not bring Europe to you. Because Europe is already here. Europe is here in your fight for freedom. Europe is here in your democratic debates. Europe is here in your resistance against tyranny. Europe is in the eyes of all Ukrainians who fight for a better future. And together, we can win this fight. Together, we can complete our Union. Together, we can bring Ukraine in our common European home. This is the dream of Ukraine's heroes and Ukraine's martyrs. And it is our dream, too.

Together we are Europe. Long live Europe and Slava Ukraini.