First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska arrived in Strasbourg at the invitation of President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to participate in the announcement of the Report on the State of the European Union.
Every year in September, the President of the European Commission delivers such a Report at the plenary session of the European Parliament. Until now, there was no practice of inviting foreign guests or delegations to the announcement of the Report. The wife of the President of Ukraine became the first guest of honor at such a session of the European Parliament.
This year’s Report is devoted, among other things, to the EU’s response to the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine (sanctions against Russia, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, support for displaced persons, increased investment in the defense of EU countries), as well as energy security issues (implementation of the REPowerEU plan to gradually abandon Russian energy carriers).
During the speech, Ursula von der Leyen announced the decision of the European Commission to allocate 100 million euros for the reconstruction of 74 Ukrainian schools in the framework of the Fast Recovery Plan. Institutions should be restored before the beginning of winter. Separate plans have been prepared for each school.
Olena Zelenska also personally met with the President of the European Commission. The First Lady thanked her for the invitation and solidarity with Ukraine in the fight against the Russian invaders.
“Millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes and go abroad in order to save the lives of their children. We are grateful to European countries for sheltering our citizens and creating conditions for their temporary residence. We have to solve a large number of problems, and today I hope to discuss with you the needs of Ukrainians both abroad and inside the country in the fields of health care, education and culture,” said Olena Zelenska at the beginning of the meeting.
The interlocutors paid attention to the topic of medical assistance to Ukrainians, in particular to wounded servicemen and civilians. Assistance from the EU in solving problems with certain categories of special care medical institutions, implementing programs for psychological support of the population, and building Ukraine’s capacity in the field of prosthetics was also discussed. In addition, they discussed the urgent educational needs of Ukrainians abroad and at home, support from the EU in protecting and preserving Ukrainian cultural heritage.
“Ukraine must win, and we will do everything for it. This victory is not just a victory of Ukraine over Russia in the war, it is a matter of survival and the future of democracy. We will stand by your side until the end, no matter how long it takes,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
Olena Zelenska noted the role of the European Union in evacuating wounded Ukrainian servicemen and civilians abroad. On March 11, the European Commission introduced a standard medical evacuation procedure (MEDEVAC). Over this time, 1,187 people were transported from Ukraine to medical facilities in European countries.
The First Lady called on the EU to support the National Program of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, which is being implemented to help the population affected by hostilities, as well as the development of Ukraine’s capabilities in the field of prosthetics, facial reconstruction and treatment of post-traumatic disorders.
In addition, Olena Zelenska emphasized that the Ukrainian authorities are implementing the recommendations of the European Commission, which are necessary for the start of the negotiation process on our country’s acquisition of EU membership.
“Russia’s war is also aimed at hindering Ukraine’s European integration processes. However, these efforts of Russia turned into a fiasco. I want to assure you that the authorities of Ukraine are determined to make every effort to speed up our country’s path to full membership in the EU. Ukraine is ready to do all the necessary work in order to bring the start of negotiations closer,” the First Lady assured.
During the visit, Olena Zelenska plans to discuss these and other issues also with President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić, Vice-President of the European Commission for Promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides.