By Dhesegaan Bala Krishnan - May 10, 2022 @ 2:18pm
KUALA LUMPUR: Ukraine wants to regain its "historically-deserved" place in Europe by becoming a member of the European Union (EU).
Ukrainian ambassador to Malaysia, Olexander Nechytaylo, said accession to the EU remains the republic's strategic goal, as enshrined in its national constitution.
"When Russian President, Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine on Feb 24, I believe he underestimated two very important factors. The first is the resilience and the will of the Ukrainian people and the second is the unity and solidarity of the international community.
"It is devastating that the slogan "never again" (a tagline associated with the Holocaust) did not materialise in the 21st century.
"However, I believe the hardship that my country is going through today is to ensure that no dictator or authoritarian regime would be able to impose their views and choices on other nations, be it in Europe or in other parts of the world.
"As we continue our fight for freedom, we also believe we will get our historically-deserved place back in Europe. It is just a matter of time when we are going to get there," he told reporters, during the Europe Day celebration, at Saloma Bridge, here, on Monday.
Europe Day, celebrated on May 9 annually, marks the day French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman called on France and Germany to pool their coal and steel production as a starting point towards peace and reconciliation in war-ravaged Europe.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict took centre stage at this year's Europe Day celebration, as EU ambassador to Malaysia Michalis Rokas, together with ambassadors and representatives from 14 EU member states, pledged their support and solidarity for Ukraine.
"The process (for Ukraine's accession to the EU) has started. It might sound bureaucratic, but legislations need to be aligned before a country can be accepted as a new member state.
"Nevertheless, there is no doubt that we are determined to follow through the will and wishes of the Ukrainian people," Rokas said, when asked about the progress on Ukraine's bid to join the EU.
Rokas said, negotiations are also ongoing with another five candidate countries, namely Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey and Albania. The EU membership, he said, is also open to Moldova and Georgia.
Meanwhile, Hungarian ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Petra Ponevacs-Pana, said the Russian aggression on Ukraine resembled the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in November 1956.
"Hungary supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Ukraine is our largest neighbouring country and we have so much in common in our history and culture," she said.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on April 20, said the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has gone past two months now, has claimed the lives of 5,121 civilians in Ukraine.
Besides expressing solidarity for Ukraine, Rokas said this year's Europe Day also presented an opportunity to cherish the strong bilateral relations between Malaysia and the EU.
"This event signifies the continuous partnership between the European Union and Malaysia, based on shared values and principles such as the rules-based international order, effective and sustainable multilateralism, and free and fair trade.
"The strong bilateral relations have made Malaysia the EU's second largest trade partner in Southeast Asia, while the EU is Malaysia's fifth largest trading partner," he said.
The EU, he added, has also designated 2022 as the "European Year of Youth", and aims to encourage participation of youth in democratic life, empower women and girls' participation in civic engagement, and develop sustainable solutions to fight climate change.