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Ukraine’s accession to the EU is a matter of environmental justice, recognition of heroism, and acknowledgement of a shared future, Margot Wällstrom, Heidi Hautala and Mary Robinson write.
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is not only a regional conflict. It’s a threat to the very foundations of international order and European security.
Ukraine’s fight is our fight, for it defends the principles that form the bedrock of our collective peace and stability.
The European Council faces an important decision on the accession of Ukraine to the European Union.
This decision transcends political lines. Supporting Ukraine in its path to EU accession is not a question of aiding a nation in distress. Rather, it’s about safeguarding our shared values.
We should not lose sight of an important and devastating element of this terrible war: the environmental catastrophe from Russia’s aggression is almost unmeasurable, and the various ways in which the environment has been damaged are not yet even fully understood.
This is not only tragic for Ukraine, but these various pollutants and health risks clearly transcend national borders.
We can literally say that Ukraine’s environmental future is also ours: we should have every interest in ensuring that these risks — nuclear, chemical, air, and water — are robustly and immediately addressed.
Ukraine made notable EU path progress despite the ongoing war
The war has scarred the landscape of the nation and struck a blow to global food security.
Often dubbed the breadbasket of the world, Ukraine plays a pivotal role in global grain and food production.
The disruption to transport routes is further aggravated by the mining and polluting of its agricultural land.
Addressing this damage will require significant international cooperation. The process of EU accession can help ensure that environmental rehabilitation is carried out effectively, leveraging European expertise and resources.
While the spotlight often falls on Ukraine’s battlefields, its quieter yet significant strides in aligning with EU laws and regulations deserve equal attention.
Despite the war, over the last 18 months, Ukraine has made notable progress in reforming its institutions and policies to meet EU standards, including in the environmental realm.
These impressive advances show Ukraine’s commitment to Europe and its ideals. Acknowledging and rewarding these efforts would help to solidify and further advance these important reforms.
A testament to our shared commitment
The narrative surrounding Ukraine should not be mired in sympathy or obligation. The Ukrainian people have shown remarkable resilience.
This is hardly a bleak story: it is rather an inspiring example of a people defending democratic values with their life and their land.
The decision to open the path for Ukraine’s membership in the EU is an opportunity to safeguard and strengthen these values.
Supporting Ukraine at this crucial moment recognises that nature, peace and development are interlinked, as are Europe’s and Ukraine’s futures.
Ukraine’s accession to the EU is a matter of environmental justice, recognition of heroism, and acknowledgement of a shared future.
The decision by the European Council to greenlight Ukraine’s accession would be a testament to our shared commitment to resilience, sustainability, and solidarity.
We encourage the Council to stand with Ukraine, not just in spirit, but through concrete action, by welcoming them into the European Union.
Margot Wallström co-chairs the High-Level Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of the War. She is former European Commissioner for the Environment and former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. MEP Heidi Hautala (Vihreä liitto, Greens/EFA) serves as Vice-President of the European Parliament. She is former Minister for International Development of Finland and a member of the High-Level Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of the War. Mary Robinson is a member of the High-Level Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of the War, the first woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
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