MEPs urge support for democracy in Ukraine 

Debate on Ukraine: (top row from left) Štefan Füle, José Ignacio Salafranca, Hannes Swoboda; (middle row from left) Guy Verhofstadt, Rebecca Harms, Ryszard Czarnecki; (bottom row from left) Helmut Scholz, Jacek Kurski, Adrian Severin 

The dramatic events in Ukraine that led to more than 80 deaths and President Viktor Yanukovych being removed from power changed the country and the EU should step in now to support democracy, MEPs from across the political spectrum said in a plenary debate on its future on 26 February. Speakers paid tribute to Ukrainians' courage and underlined that they should be able to freely determine the future of their own country.

Speaking on behalf of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, enlargement commissioner Štefan Füle outlined three elements required for a lasting solution: a comprehensive constitutional reform, formation of a new inclusive government, and free and fair elections. He said the situation put a great responsibility on the new Ukrainian government to deliver the changes that people have asked for and on the EU to ensure that these changes are sustainable.

José Ignacio Salafranca, a Spanish member of the EPP group, said: "It's taken three months to get rid of President Yanukovych, but the stability of the country and the recovery of its economy will certainly take a lot longer than that." He added:  "The European Union must lead an international donors conference together with the United States, Russia, the International Monetary Fund and other important actors."

Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian leader of the S&D group, called for reforms in Ukraine and said: “This is a step-by-step process, but it has to start now." He also stressed that at the end of the road EU membership should be possible and urged Russia to “try to make friends with the Ukrainian people, not only with the oligarchs”.

Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of the ALDE group, said the protests were not against Russia, but against "the crooks and the oligarchs" in power in Ukraine. He said the EU could have launched sanctions earlier, but that when announced, they proved to be a "game-changer”. He also called for visa facilitation for Ukrainians.

Rebecca Harms, the German co-chair of the Green group, said: "The people of Ukraine have got our support and commitment and this is something they value and want."

Ryszard Czarnecki, a Polish member of the ECR group, said: "We should not be deaf to Ukraine knocking on Europe's door and we should say clearly that in some future there is a room for Ukraine in the European Union."

“The change of power in Kiev appears to have gone through as desired, but the social conflict that has been tearing Ukraine apart for years is far from being solved,”said Helmut Scholz, a German member of the GUE/NGL group.

Jacek Kurski, a Polish member of the EFD group, criticised the EU's reaction to the crisis, saying it “laid bare our passivity, we acted in a very weak and meek manner whereas Russia acted strong".

Adrian Severin, a non-attached member from Romania,  focused on the immediate challenges facing Ukraine: "Avoid anarchy, avoid economic bankruptcy, avoid state partition." He added: "All other priorities, no matter how justified and legitimate, should be considered of secondary importance."