A dinner debate the day after President Zelensky’s surprise visit to Europe
Coincidentally, the dinner-debate took place in the middle of President Zelensky’s tour of Europe. It was impossible not to mention his visit: the debate therefore opened with a short round-table discussion in which each speaker presented his or her interpretation of President Zelensky’s visit to London, Paris and Brussels. Laurence Farreng, who was present in the European Parliament at the time, described an electric hemicycle of emotional MEPs, as evidenced by the ” heroiam slava ” (“long live Ukraine”) shouted in response to the Ukrainian President’s ” slava ukraini ” (“long live Ukraine”).
This sense of solidarity between Europeans and the Ukrainian people was evident throughout the evening. Oksana and Nataliia, touched by the invitation, were keen to thank “each and every French man and woman for the efforts made, for the help given”. Emotion was the order of the day as we listened to the harrowing testimonies of these two refugees who described their journey to flee their war-torn country, leaving behind everything they had. Nataliia spoke at length about her burnt and bombed house near Hostomel airport, the first symbolic site of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the first equally symbolic military setback for the Russian army.
Europe faces war
And what about Europe in all this? Xavier Sota, the debate’s moderator, questioned Laurence Farreng at length about the war that has shaken the very foundations of the EU, which was built to make peace, not war. This war is a historic moment in history, and even more so for the European Union.
The 27-member Union has thus shown great agility and reactivity, after having been criticised for its immobility. The MEP recalled the importance of EU aid to Ukraine, both humanitarian and military, a great first for the European Union. In addition to direct aid to Ukraine, she mentioned the sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which are also bearing fruit.
For Oksana Melnychuk and Nataliia, the Ukrainian desire for Europe has been denied by Putin. Oksana, who specialised in “Russian domination and Ukrainian resistance” as was stated in her dissertation in the early 2000s, analyses the situation by describing an “inevitable war”, which she has been expecting for a long time. If there is one certainty for both refugees, it is that this war will be won by their country. Nataliia, a French teacher, tells how she taught Ukrainian generals and saw an unshakable spirit of resistance in them and self-sacrifice for their country. This is forged, according to Oksana, by the historical episodes of the struggle for the survival of their country’s independence.
Volodymyr Zelensky, a figure of the Ukrainian resistance?
This dinner debate was also an opportunity to ask the two speakers for their views on the actions of President Zelensky, before and since the beginning of the war, who represents Ukraine and its resistance in our imagination.
Inextricably linked to the current demands to obtain the status of candidacy for the European Union, Oksana returned to the anti-corruption and anti-oligarchic laws initiated before the war by a president whom she did not like, but whom she saw as a statesman with the advent of the war.
The moderator also asked Laurence Farreng about Europe’s expectations for the main post-war issues: the impact of the exceptional circumstances of this application and of Ukraine’s accession to the EU on possible further Russian aggression. The unanimous conclusion of the three speakers was in line with Ursula von der Leyen’s phrase, echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron: “The future of Europe is being played out in Ukraine”.
“The future of Europe is at stake in Ukraine”
At the end of the dinner debate, the future of Europe was indeed discussed. Xavier Sota then asked Laurence Farreng about the consequences of this war for Europe: the Europe of defence, which is all the more at focus as the MEP recalled the military projects, for example, the transformation of Europe towards an increasingly diplomatic role. This must be added to the historic economic aspect, in order to have a say in a geopolitical context that is both troubled and hostile.
The guests received a long applause from the audience and had to answer questions from those present at each table for the dinner debate, all of whom stressed the quality of the exchange as well as its intensity, reminding everyone of the atrocity of war and the need for Europe, the Europe of peace.
The European Democratic Party held an insightful Congress on the 13th of October 2023, in the historic city of Mainz, Germany. Not only did delegations from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and many other countries have come together to attend this important event, but it also served as a breeding ground for fundamental debates and innovative proposals that address the pressing issues of our era.
Hundreds of activists and political leaders congregated at Guidel over the course of the event. In the same way, as François Bayrou put it: “We believe that the goal of political action is to create a society in which the humanity in each of us flourishes.”, the high attendance of people not only signaled the party’s active role in national affairs but also the society’s interested in being involved in such context.