“We are asleep until we fall in love!” Leon Tolstoj writes brilliantly in his eternal masterpiece War and Peace.
Vladimir Putin should have read the giant of Russian literature more carefully before embarking on an unforgiveable war that has already taken too many innocent lives and crushed people’s wish to live in peace. He should have read through the lines of his compatriot’s work to understand that when Russia annexed Crimea, Europe might have been asleep but that a united continent, which suffered two world wars on its soil, could not stay asleep forever.
And so, it happened: Europe fell in love with Ukraine and woke up. What we have seen on display in recent days is a continent falling in love with a country, which fights against aggression, for its self-determination, for its freedom, for its democratic values.
We see a country that fights for European principles because the European Union is a beacon of hope for those who believe in peace and not war, for those who believe in democracy not autocracy, for those who believe in the rule of law and not in the law of the strongest.
In less than a week since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union pushed measures that were unimaginable just a month ago. The war in Ukraine is bringing out the humanity of the EU and its citizens, who are putting freedom and peace before interest and trade.
At the speed of light, the EU has adopted the largest sanctions’ package in the Union’s history, hitting Russia’s financial system, its high-tech industries and its corrupt elite. These sanctions will take a heavy toll on the Russian economy and on the Kremlin. They will also come at a cost for the European economy.
But, as European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said in an emotional speech in front of the assembly last Tuesday, the EU is resolute to do #whateverittakes to save the continent from a belligerent authoritarian aggressor, who has been at war with the European project for way too long. The three words pronounced by former ECB president Mario Draghi to save the euro are now on everybody’s lips to save Europe.
And so, it happened: Europe fell in love with Ukraine and woke up
The awakening of Europe is visible across the policy spectrum. If Europe wants to continue to live in peace, it must finally build a strong foreign policy and common defence. The taboo has vanished seeing war again on our continent.
At the darkest hour, when Russia launched an unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and massive disinformation campaigns, the EU agreed to immediately unblock some €500 million for member states to buy arms for Ukraine’s armed forces, in a move described as a “watershed moment” for its defence policy. #Whateverittakes.
The EU has asked its satellite centre in Madrid to provide intelligence to Ukraine about Russian troop movements and EU countries are determined to further increase their bilateral military support to Kyiv. #Whateverittakes.
Germany has committed €100 billion to its country’s defence budget.
In yet another major turnaround, Chancellor Olaf Scholz authorised third countries like the Netherlands to ship German-made defensive weapons to Ukraine and he supported a call for the EU to finance the supply of defensive weapons to Ukraine. #Whateverittakes.
From Ireland to Poland, Europe is welcoming refugees from Ukraine after years of disagreement on migration policy. Even Hungary has rallied behind its European allies against Putin. The Polish president has called for Ukraine to be fast-tracked for EU membership and many are supporting him. #WhateveritItakes.
This growing momentum towards safeguarding peace and solidarity is giving Europe its new torch to rally Europeans and not only.
Putin has totally misunderstood the lesson of history.
The EU needed to rediscover the desire for peace to keep building its construct. Putin, rather than dividing Europe, has united us all towards that mission.
Putin should be reminded, as Tolstoj rightly wrote, that “Kings are the slaves of history”.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) represents some 20 million enterprises.