With Ukraine coming under attack from Russia, the EU is keen to support Kyiv and forge closer links. Find out how.
Since withdrawing from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been keen to pursue its own path, including forging closer links with the rest of Europe.
Ukraine’s relations with Russia have been tense due to the latter’s determination to keep the country within its sphere of influence. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea in violation of international law, a move strongly condemned by the EU. It has also been waging a hybrid war against Ukraine, including economic pressure and disinformation attacks.
In a resolution adopted in December 2021, MEPs called on Russia to withdraw its troops threatening Ukraine and said any aggression by Moscow must come at a high economic and political price. Parliament had already expressed grave concern about the large Russian military build-up at the border with Ukraine and in illegally occupied Crimea in a resolution adopted in April 2021,
Members of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and security and defence subcommittee went on a fact-finding mission to Ukraine from 30 January to 1 February 2022.
MEPs called for a united response and voiced support for Ukraine in a debate on EU-Russia relations, European security and Russia’s military threat against Ukraine on 16 February 2022. Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the political group leaders also issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine.
On 22 February, leading MEPs strongly condemned Russian President's Vladimir Putin's recognition of the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities.
Two days after that, Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the political group leaders denounced Russia's military attack on Ukraine within hours of it taking place and announced a special plenary session on 1 March.
President Metsola called for solidarity with Ukraine in a speech to the European Council on 24 February.
During the special plenary session on 1 March, MEPs demanded tougher sanctions on Russia and new efforts to grant Ukraine EU candidate status.
On International Women’s Day on 8 March, Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko addressed the European Parliament on the plight of her fellow citizens under attack by Russia.
The situation of the more han two million refugees fleeing war in Ukraine was debated in the Parliament on 8 March. MEPs praised the solidarity shown by EU countries.
MEPs also discussed with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas what the Russian invasion meant for the security of the EU on 9 March. They joined her in calling for more EU defence, reduced energy dependence and solidarity with Ukraine.
On 11 March, the Parliament in cooperation with the Ukrainian parliament launched a website where people can discover - in both English and Ukrainian - how the EU has supported Ukraine, including in its current struggle against Russia.
From Monday 21 March to Thursday 24 March, Parliament organised the Ukraine Solidarity Days to show its support for Ukraine and its parliament following the Russian invasion. Among the events, a Facebook live discussion on the war in Ukraine on 23 March brought together young people from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and Michal Šimečka, the vice president of the European Parliament responsible for human rights and democracy.
One month after Russia attacked Ukraine, MEPs unanimously condemned the brutal invasion during a debate on 23 March and urged the EU to further sanction Moscow and protect the EU economy.
On 24 March, MEPs agreed to redirect EU regional and asylum funding to EU countries sheltering people fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called for immediate and substantial food aid to Ukraine. Speaking at the start of the EU summit on Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine that same day, Parliament President Roberta Metsola praised the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine and called on EU leaders to stand by those in need of protection.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola visited Kyiv on 1 April at the invitation of Ruslan Stefanchuk, the chair of the Ukrainian parliament. In her speech to the parliament, she expressed the European Union´s support and hope to the Ukrainian people and condemn the unjustified Russian attack. The following day, Metsola met with Ukrainian refugees at the Otwock school in the region of Warsaw together with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
President Metsola led MEPs in a minute of silence in memory of the victims of Bucha, Irpin and all victims of war, terror and violence at the opening of the plenary session on 4 April.
During a debate on 6 April, MEPs called for further sanctions against Russia, additional support for Ukraine and for reducing the EU’s energy dependency.
On 7 April, MEPs decided to immediately release €3.4 billion to EU countries sheltering people fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and also demanded a full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas. In addition they also called for children fleeing the war in Ukraine to be given safe passage and for assistance for those internally displaced or unable to leave areas under siege.
In a debate with French minister Brigitte Klinkert and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 4 May, MEPs said internal EU unity and solidarity is crucial now and for the future reconstruction of Ukraine. The following day, Parliament called on the EU to protect women fleeing Ukraine from violence and trafficking, and to grant them access to essential health services. MEPs also praised European transport and tourism operators for helping refugees from Ukraine, demanded Russia return stolen airplanes and called on the EU to tighten sanctions on Russia.
On 19 May, MEPs adopted various resolutions related to Ukraine. Parliament backed a one-year suspension of EU import duties on all Ukrainian exports, to support the country’s economy. MEPs also greenlit new rules that will allow Eurojust to safely store and analyse evidence related to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity and asked the EU to support setting up a special international tribunal to punish the crime of aggression committed against Ukraine, for which the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction, and hold Russian political leaders and military commanders and those of its allies to account. They also called for funding to deal with the consequences of the war in Ukraine, by confiscating Russian oligarchs’ assets, using new EU own resources and fully using the existing EU budget.
In September 2014, the European Parliament gave its consent to the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The deal established political association and economic integration between the EU and Ukraine and provided for mutual free market access.
The agreement established ground rules for cooperation in areas including energy, transport, and education. It also required Ukraine to implement reforms and respect democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law.
The free trade agreement substantially integrated EU and Ukraine markets by dismantling import duties and banning other trade restrictions, albeit with specific limitations and transitional periods in sensitive areas, such as trade in agricultural products.
The EU is Ukraine’s main trading partner, accounting for more than 40% of the country’s international trade.
In April 2017, the European Parliament supported an agreement to exempt Ukrainian citizens from EU short-stay visa requirements.
Ukrainians who hold a biometric passport can enter the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, for tourism, to visit relatives or friends, or for business purposes, but not to work.
There are various EU initiatives to support Ukraine’s economy, aid its green transition and help the country to reform.
Since 2014, more than €17 billion in grants and loans have been mobilised by the EU and financial institutions to support reforms in Ukraine, while applying conditionality dependent on their progress.
Since 2015, more than 11,500 Ukrainian students have participated in the EU’s popular Erasmus+ programme.
The EU invests in projects to stimulate Ukraine’s economy, including direct support to 100,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, assistance to more than 10,000 firms in rural areas and funds to modernise public IT infrastructure.
Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the EU has mobilised more than €190 million for Ukraine to support immediate needs and socio-economic recovery as well as €1.2 billion in macro-financial assistance. The EU has supplied more than 36 million items of personal protective equipment, as well as ambulances, critical medical equipment and training for health care staff. In cooperation with civil society, the EU provides food and medicines to vulnerable families.
On 16 February 2022, MEPs approved a €1.2 billion macro-financial loan to help Ukraine cover its external financing needs in 2022.
In 2018 Parliament awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Oleg Sentsov. The Ukrainian film director and human rights activist was imprisoned for protesting Russia’s annexation of his native Crimea on Independence Square in Kyiv, but released from jail on 7 September 2019 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Russia and Ukraine.