Remarks by President Charles Michel at the press conference following his meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Last year, I had the occasion to come to Ukraine three times. And exactly one year ago, in March last year, we went together to the Donbas. And there, I said “Russia is not a mediator”. I said “Russia is party to the conflict”. And the situation today is showing that I was right.
This morning, I went to Borodyanka to witness with my own eyes the situation on the ground. I met the people. There are no words to explain what 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. It will be punished. They must pay for what they have done there, and in many other cities and other locations in Ukraine.
Right now, like you, I think of the people, the soldiers, but also the civilians in the Donbas, in Mariupol and in 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 victory for Ukraine. And that is why we will use all the 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 coming days, on May 5th, will be the starting point of this trust fund, with an international donors’ conference. We will organise this together with Poland, with Sweden and with the support of the European Commission, all the member states, and with the support of many international actors.
We are also working closely with international organisations like the IMF, the World Bank and others to make sure that we can mobilise funds in support, so Ukraine can pay the social expenditures that are needed in the short term, in the mid-term, and in the long term. It is also very important to start as soon as possible the programme of rebuilding the country. I can assure you that the EU will be on your side to rebuild your country.
Today we discussed very strategic and interesting ideas, very operational and concrete ideas to accelerate the process. I am optimistic that in the following days and weeks, we will clarify the exact nature of the support that we will be able to provide. And in order to succeed, we will also discuss the rebuilding of the country and the investments needed in infrastructure and in different fields.
The second important topic is military support. For the first time in history, the EU has decided to provide lethal military equipment. It was a decision taken two days after the start of the war. I remember very well, I will never forget it. Because you, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, you called me on Saturday, two days after the start of the war, and you asked me to coordinate the effort to start providing military equipment. And we succeeded in convincing the European Union member states in a few hours to provide military equipment. We decided a first tranche of 500 million euros. And now we have a total of 1.5 billion euros of military equipment, and day after day in close consultation with you, we are trying to convince member states to add bilateral support to make sure that what we provide is what you need. We discussed very precisely your needs and how we are able to make sure that we can provide with the EU’s member states and other partners the means that are needed to fight and to win this war.
The third point is political support. And I would like to say here that, of course, I understand, and I show full respect for the free and democratic decision taken by the government of Ukraine. When you decided to apply to be an EU member, we tasked the Commission immediately, only in a few days. Usually, it takes eight months for the Commission to publish an opinion. We are in close contact on the substance. We will have the opinion of the Commission by the end of June. Then it will be my responsibility to assess when I can put this point on the agenda of the European Council and the Council, to make sure that we have the political discussion to make progress on this.
But I want to share with you that I feel a very strong support to make sure that we can provide concrete support to Ukraine in your choice to follow the EU path for your future. And I am convinced that what you are demonstrating day to day, this demonstration that you are totally committed to democratic principles, to freedoms, and that you don’t only fight for the future of the children of Ukraine, we know that you fight for the European fundamental principles and values.
We are also determined to provide humanitarian support. We are determined to provide support to make sure that international justice and justice will prevail, because there is no peace without justice. That is why it is very important to collect the evidence and to support all the actors who are working in this important field.
Finally, we discussed the sanctions because we see that we must put pressure on the regime, on the Kremlin. We have decided many concrete measures. This is not enough, and it’s why we are constantly working to increase the pressure. Again today, we went into more detail and identified some additional elements for us to put proposals on the table of the Council and to be able to maintain the maximum pressure on Russia.
Finally, one last word. Dear Volodymyr, we met for the first time about three or four years ago, and this was the starting point of a personal relationship based on trust and confidence. I want to tell you that I am, and we are extremely impressed by your personal leadership. Your personal leadership is also showing the bravery and courage of the people of Ukraine. You are not alone. We are with you. And we will do everything possible to support you and to make sure that Ukraine will win the war. Thank you.