Remarks by President Charles Michel during the press conference following his meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv
Last year I had the opportunity to come to Ukraine three times. And exactly a year ago, last March, we went to Donbass together. And there, I said “Russia is not a mediator”. I said “Russia is a party to the conflict”. And the situation today shows that I was right.
This morning I went to Borodyanka to see the situation on the ground with my own eyes. I met the people. There are no words to explain how I feel, not as President of the European Council, but as a father, as a human being. These are atrocities. These are war crimes. They must be punished. He will be punished. They have to pay for what they did there, as well as in many other cities and other places in Ukraine.
At this moment, like you, I am thinking of the people, the military, but also the civilians of Donbass, Mariupol and other cities who are fighting for their lives, who are fighting for the sovereignty of Ukraine. And I know very well, they are fighting for our European values, for freedom, for democratic principles.
We are determined to do everything we can to support Ukraine, because we want Ukraine to win. And that is why we will use all possible tools in our hands. Of course, financial support is very important. We had the opportunity to go into more detail with the President, and that is why we decided a few weeks ago, after a phone call, to launch this trust fund in solidarity with Ukraine. In the next few days, May 5and, will be the starting point of this trust fund, with an international donors’ conference. We will organize this with Poland, with Sweden and with the support of the European Commission, of all the Member States, and with the support of many international actors.
We are also working closely with international organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank and others to ensure that we can mobilize support funds, so that Ukraine can pay for the necessary social expenditures in the short term, at medium term, and long term. It is also very important to start the country’s reconstruction program as soon as possible. I can assure you that the EU will be at your side to rebuild your country.
Today we discussed very strategic and interesting ideas, very operational and concrete ideas to speed up the process. I am optimistic that in the days and weeks to come we will clarify exactly what support we can provide. And to succeed, we will also discuss the reconstruction of the country and the necessary investments in infrastructure and in different areas.
The second important subject is military support. For the first time in history, the EU has decided to provide lethal military equipment. This is a decision taken two days after the start of the war. I remember it very well, I will never forget it. Because you, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called me on Saturday, two days after the start of the war, and asked me to coordinate the effort to start supplying military equipment. And we succeeded in convincing the Member States of the European Union within a few hours to provide military equipment. We have decided on a first tranche of 500 million euros. And now we have a total of EUR 1.5 billion worth of military equipment, and day after day, in close consultation with you, we try to convince Member States to add bilateral support to ensure that what we provide is what you need. We have discussed very specifically your needs and how we can ensure that we can provide together with EU Member States and other partners the necessary means to fight and win this war.
The third point is political support. And I would like to say here that, of course, I fully understand and respect the free and democratic decision taken by the Ukrainian government. When you decided to apply to become a member of the EU, we instructed the Commission immediately, in just a few days. Usually, it takes the Commission eight months to publish an opinion. We are in close contact on the merits. We will have the Commission’s opinion by the end of June. Then it will be my responsibility to assess when I can put this item on the agenda of the European Council and the Council, to make sure that we have the political discussion to move forward on this point.
But I want to share with you that I feel very strong support to ensure that we can give concrete support to Ukraine in your choice to follow the EU path for your future. And I am convinced that what you demonstrate day by day, this demonstration that you are totally committed to democratic principles, to freedoms, and that you are not only fighting for the future of the children of Ukraine, we know that you you are fighting for fundamental European principles and values.
We are also determined to provide humanitarian support. We are determined to lend our support to ensure that international justice and justice prevail, because there is no peace without justice. This is why it is very important to collect evidence and support all actors working in this important area.
Finally, we discussed sanctions because we see that we have to put pressure on the regime, on the Kremlin. We have decided on many concrete measures. It’s not enough, and that’s why we are constantly working to increase the pressure. Today again, we went into more detail and identified additional elements to enable us to put proposals on the Council table and to be able to maintain maximum pressure on Russia.
Finally, one last word. Dear Volodymyr, we first met about three or four years ago, and that was the starting point for a personal relationship based on trust. I want to tell you that I am, and we are extremely impressed with your personal leadership. Your personal leadership also shows the bravery and courage of the Ukrainian people. You’re not alone. We are with you. And we will do everything possible to support you and ensure that Ukraine wins the war. Thank you.