Violence has ended. Ukraine stands free to choose it’s future. Yet there is still pressure. From Russia, from within. Voices all over the continent rise up to defend the former regime. In a way that was to be expected. There were plenty of those who defended it while it was ongoing. And it is testimony to the freedom of speech within the EU, albeit I fear those that did so and do so have different reasons than their allegiance to an idea that motivates them.
Violence has ended. The peace deal was mediated by the EU. Anybody can say it was late – and they are partially right – too many people have died. Live. On streaming channels, on twitter, elsewhere on the web we were all witnesses to that happening. I saw a clip on Youtube yesterday documenting a corner in Kiev covered by sniper fire. I saw people dying. People dying while attempting to recover the bodies of those injured or fallen. One image stuck to mind – a protester hidden behind one of those Berkut metal shields, cramped behind it, in the main focus of the camera. One minute later his white protective hat falls unnaturally – then he slowly falls to his knees and then his head quietly descending towards the pavement, with the shield falling onto him like a blanket. He was shot in the head.
Violence should have never happened. I was only 5 years and 8 months old when the Romanian Revolution happened. I remember it like it was yesterday, because the very morning of December 21st my father had gone out and bought a locally made color tv. Up to that point all that I had seen on TV had been black and white. The impact color brought was so strong, they could not pry me away from the live transmission all night. I remember the tracer shots flying over the square in Bucharest, the wide array of men speaking with aggravating tone. I remember the bodies. I remember the execution of the dictatorial couple. I will never forget.
Violence has ended. Ukrainians must never forget. They too had to pay their freedom in blood. Most of those who died are anonymous to us. They are regular people, the kind you see on your daily commute, the kind you buy bread from every day. Normal regular people that went to the Maidan for a better life. For the freedom to choose their future and for the right to live in a normal democracy. I will never forget.
Neither must the EU. The Eastern Partnership deal ranked 5th in the requests on the Maidan. Because it was preceded by fundamental rights we enjoy every day – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a rightful law governed system that is free of corruption, a government for the people. Freedoms we often take as granted. Basic rights, that exist throughout the EU. And the fact that this ranking occurred means the Ukrainian people are very much aware of what they need. They need democracy and once that step is achieved, then they dream of the EU.
The EU must understand it’s role – there is reconstruction involved in Ukraine. Not buildings and streets, but political reconstruction. So the first thing the EU must do is to become the guard dog of that democracy. It must voice any concern, it must issue warnings as soon as it notices any straying from the path of democracy. It must be more present in Ukraine than ever before.
The EU must understand that right now it is in the position of the cousin leaving abroad. It can do two things – send help, money and otherwise, or it can get involved. It must do both. It must provide a financial aid to Ukraine and it must be there, on the street, supporting the regular Ukrainians. This is far from over.
The big bully to the East is not going to be silent forever. It has taken a punch and he is in disbelief. Someone stroke back, and it did so hard and with an audience. But retaliation is soon to follow. As always it starts with money. The EU, US & IMF have a difficult choice before them – while it can be argued that it is not the first country to face this long and treacherous path to a fully fledged democracy, Ukraine also is in a particular position – it will be under immense pressure.
We the people of EUrope have sympathized with the Maidan. We respected their struggle. Here in Romania it brought about a terrifyingly chilly remembrance of ’89. I’ve seen countless Ukrainian blogs comparing Yanukovych to Ceausescu. Photo’s arising on twitter with state security personnel burning files in the backyard, photos of the villas and opulence of the head of the regime supported that. We went through a difficult transition after ’89, marked by a series of events that turned us back from the very beginning. And the west, what we then looked at as the beacon of democracy, for a while, became uneasy about Romania. It will no doubt happen in Ukraine.
The EU needs to be there. It needs to not let events that will unfold become an obstacle in the quest for democracy of the Ukrainian people. We need to keep the beacon up, the flag flying and our support continuous. Because that is what makes the EU what it is today – democracy and values.
These are our neighbors and they have the same aspirations we do – a better life, a brighter future, democracy. What would we be if we allowed evil to come to our neighbors house and do nothing about it?