The Values of Europe (Mini-series): A view from Poland

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, His Excellency Piotr Wilczek, Polish Ambassador to the UK, reflects on the importance of European solidarity and a closer economic and strategic partnership between the EU and Ukraine.

This blog forms part of a mini-series on European values, which will comprise of contributions on this subject from EU Ambassadors to the UK and UCL academics, running from 28 June-8 July 2022.

When some weeks ago we were preparing a joint film of the EU Ambassadors in London for Europe Day, solidarity was one of the EU values which were most frequently mentioned. In my opinion, given the current grievous situation in Ukraine, this should be the value that we put first in our thinking.

Poland has been at the forefront of aiding Ukraine and continues to call for a harder stance against Russia over its invasion. We support our Ukrainian allies and friends through military assistance, political pressure on Putin’s regime with severe economic sanctions, maintaining our diplomatic and consular presence in Ukraine, and paying a high level visit to Kyiv. Polish people are among those who have most generously opened their doors and hearts to over three million Ukrainians fleeing the war. Operating under the principle of solidarity, none have been left without help.

Since this war began, the European Union has stood together to face those who want to destroy the peace and challenge the security architecture that we have built over the years. Poland has lived through its own trauma, being subjected to over 50 years of Soviet occupation. Although the fall of communism was our own doing, it would not have happened without full support from the West. Having this experience of Western solidarity, we fully understand the analogy to Ukraine’s current situation, and the need reach out to Kyiv.

With this in mind, on April 9th in Warsaw we organised a donors’ conference on Ukraine which managed to raise over 9 billion euros. We also initiated a forward-looking debate in the EU on the reconstruction plan that will need to be introduced after the peace is regained.

The ultimate expression of our shared values should be the continuous support for the European perspective of Ukraine, a strategic economic and political partner, who wants to link its future with the EU and has already been implementing an ambitious plan of pro-European reforms for several years. We need to remember that today’s war is not the first time that Ukraine has paid a high price for its pro-European choice. Since the submission of Ukraine’s EU membership application, we have been strongly advocating for the acceleration of the process, and candidate status for Ukraine.

Now, we find ourselves facing decisions which may change the course of European politics. We are determined to work hard with those who are not convinced to proceed along the  “ambitious path”. It is our strong conviction that the war in Ukraine is a strategic wake up call, which requires decisive action on our part.

For the past months we have all seen disturbing images of war, intolerable cruelty, a true showcase of the worst traits humanity has to offer. We would all like to see peace in all corners of our continent again; nevertheless, there should be no return to “business as usual”. In fact, in Russia’s context, there should be no return to “business” at all. Until the Kremlin stops threatening the liberal democracies of the EU (for years it has been doing so with energy prices, now it has widened its scope to food, which cannot leave Ukrainian ports), we must continue our policy of imposing sanctions. A bully will only stop picking on others when he is in pain himself.  And if we do not show solidarity, if we do not stand up together to this frightful aggression, European values will be replaced by “Russkiy mir”, and alongside Bucha and Irpin, history books will name other European towns where it is introduced. We must prevent this from happening – at all costs.

H.E. Piotr Wilczek is the Polish Ambassador to the UK.

This blog is based on remarks made by the Ambassador at a UCL roundtable on the values of Europe, which took place as part of Quo Vadis, a four day festival convened by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, co-hosted by the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and supported by the UCL European Institute.

A recording of the full event is available here.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and not of the UCL European Institute, nor of UCL.

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