Ukraine moves closer to EU dream after decade of war

Ukrainian veteran Yehor Sobolev reflects on Ukraine's EU aspirations amid ongoing conflict with Russia

Reuters June 25, 2024
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sign a Ukrainian national flag in Kyiv, Ukraine February 2, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS


A veteran of Ukraine's 2014 revolution who is now fighting Russian forces, Yehor Sobolev knows the price of Kyiv's decade-long drive to join the European Union as well as anyone.

Having backed tough reforms as a lawmaker after the pro-democracy uprising 10 years ago, he says he will look on proudly from the front as formal accession talks open on Tuesday.

"We Ukrainians know how to fulfil our dreams," said the 47-year-old deputy commander of a special army unit.

The launch of talks, though largely ceremonial, is an important step for a nation that has spilled blood and pushed through the reforms required in its pursuit of EU membership.

"Ukraine is returning to Europe, where it has belonged for centuries, as a full-fledged member of the European community," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday.

Kyiv filed its request to join the EU days after Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. It sees membership as validation of its fight to embrace European values.

Read also: Ukraine has hit over 30 Russian oil refineries, depots, claims Zelenskiy

It now faces a lengthy path to accession, and needs to overhaul a bureaucracy still riddled with vestiges of Soviet days.

The task will be complicated by the war with Russia that has no end in sight, with Ukrainian towns and cities under constant threat of Russian air strikes that have killed many civilians as well as soldiers, forced millions from their homes and damaged critical and energy infrastructure.

In many ways, Sobolev's story is a picture of Ukraine's trajectory over the past decade.

He was a prominent figure in the Maidan revolution that toppled a Russia-backed leader after protests triggered by him breaking a promise to develop closer ties with the EU.

Sobolev later worked on legislation that formed the foundation of Ukraine's anti-corruption infrastructure, central to securing financial aid and backing for Kyiv's integration with the EU.


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