Video Ursula van der Leyen: We should have taken Putin more seriously and listened to Ukraine

The current energy crisis and inflation in Europe will not stop the Union’s support for Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen said, adding that “we should have listened more to Ukraine” and “take it a little more seriously”.

Ursula van der Leyen, in KievPhoto: Efrem Lukatsky / AP / Profimedia

“Putin has always tried to divide us,” van der Leyen said. Independence of Kiev. “But it’s good to see that it never succeeded.”

Van der Leyen said the current energy crisis and double-digit inflation in Europe will not stop the Union’s support for Ukraine. He added that Europe would be ready for winter even without Russian gas.

According to the official, European institutions and EU members have given Ukraine more than 19 billion euros since February.

“The relations between the EU and Ukraine are stronger today than ever,” said van der Leyen, who oversaw Ukraine’s long-awaited EU candidate status in June.

We should have taken Putin more seriously

Asked why Europe has been blind in its relations with Russia in the past, van der Leyen said it was “very difficult” to assess. Personal ties to Russia may be a factor.

I said in my (State of the Union) speech that we should have listened more to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe,” he said. “We should have listened more to Ukraine.”

“Also, given that Putin made his comments months before this war began, we should have heard more — or taken it more seriously.”

In July 2021, the Kremlin published Putin’s “Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” article, denying Ukraine’s right to be a sovereign state. By then Putin was already determined to launch an all-out war, many said.

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It is time to overcome the mistakes of the past, and Europe strongly supports the Ukrainian cause – politically, militarily and financially, van der Leyen said.

Van der Leyen was convinced that Ukraine would win the war

Now the main objective is for Ukraine to win the defensive war against Russia and to rebuild the country after Russia is defeated.

“I deeply believe that you will win this battle,” Van der Leyen said. “Of course, there will be many, many years of rebuilding. But we have to do this together.”

And according to van der Leyen, only Ukraine should decide under what conditions the war ends.

“There is one clear rule: the conditions are defined by Ukraine. It’s your decision,” van der Leyen said.

“This is a very clear policy for the EU and the heads of state and government, because you are a sovereign country and this is your future.”

About EU accession

The head of the European Commission said that the accession negotiations will begin on the path to Ukraine meeting the seven conditions set by the European Union.

The conditions include judicial and anti-corruption reforms, enforcement of anti-oligarchy legislation, transparency in the media market and establishment of a balance in the media market, and the development of legislation on national minorities in line with EU principles.

The Ukrainian government expects to meet the preconditions and start accession negotiations in the spring of 2023.

“I now see that the accession process is on the right track,” van der Leyen said, though added that it will take time.

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