“It is logical that we become the EU member”, - Oleksiy Chernyshov in his interview for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter
Last week, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent representatives of Ukraine to the EU capitals on the eve of the European Council meeting on June 23-24 in Brussels. Among them was Oleksiy Chernyshov, Minister for Communities and Territories Development, who met with officials from Austria, Sweden and Finland.
In addition to official meetings, the Minister also spoke with Swedish journalists in Stockholm about Ukraine’s EU membership.
MinRegion has published a translation of the article issued on May 25 on the pages of the largest Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure in Ukraine alone will cost more than 100 billion euros. In some regions, cities are completely destroyed, says Oleksiy Chernyshov, Ukrainian Minister for Communities and Territories Development.
In fact, Oleksiy Chernyshov is in Stockholm to talk not about war, but about peace. More precisely, about Ukraine’s membership in the EU. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent several so-called envoys to EU capitals ahead of European Council meeting on June 23-24 in Brussels.
Ukraine hopes that this meeting will give it a candidate status. But some countries are skeptical. French President Emmanuel Macron says Ukraine’s EU membership will take “a decade”.
Despite this, Oleksiy Chernyshov is optimistic.
– It would be logical for Ukraine to become a member of the EU. We have already proved that we belong to the European family. Another thing is that it takes time – of course everything will come. But the political decision to give us a candidate status is important.
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country did not have EU candidate status. The main obstacles were weak Ukrainian governance, oligarchs’ control over the economy, and problems with corruption.
Was it considered that before the war Ukraine could not become a candidate for the EU even in 10-15 years?
– No one thought that Ukraine would be able to withstand Russia’s attack for more than a few days. We will do our best to meet the EU standards quickly. But I don’t think the EU owes us a candidate status. Our accession to the EU must be in the EU’s interest.
Chernyshov leans back and begins to list the advantages of Ukraine.
– We have a strong army, we will strengthen the security of the EU. We have 32 million hectares of cultivated land in Ukraine, we are crucial for the EU’s food security. Human capital, higher education. And if Ukraine becomes a member of the EU, we will no longer be a battleground between Russia and Europe. It will be established that Ukraine is part of Europe.
On the battlefield, Ukraine has achieved certain advantages over the last month. It is almost safe in Kyiv, and Russian troops are also being withdrawn from the outskirts of Kharkiv, which is only twenty kilometers from the Russian border. Meanwhile Russia controls Mariupol and Kherson, and is currently trying to take control of all Donbas by “pincer maneuver”.
– Kharkiv is my hometown, and I am very glad that the territories around the city are being liberated. But our long-term goal, of course, is for Ukraine to regain its internationally recognized borders. Russia has been forced to change its plans to occupy Ukraine, which we can be proud of. We made them do this. But now the main thing is to return all our territories.
Currently there are assumptions that Zelenskyy’s plan is to win back not only the territories that Russia has seized since February 24, but also Donbas and Crimea. Oleksiy Chernyshov does not want to comment on these assumptions.
— All wars end in peace negotiations, — he tells. But now Russia continues to bomb our cities and our people, to kill civilians. We have to defend ourselves, we have no choice.
As Minister for Communities and Territories Development, Oleksiy Chernyshov is very pleased that more people are now returning to Ukraine than vice versa.
– People are returning even to Kharkiv. The Russians have retreated so far that they can no longer use their short-range artillery. Municipal transport started working, and now we need to make sure that electricity and heat will work again.
At the same time, Oleksiy Chernyshov notes that the destruction is huge.
– Russia has destroyed or damaged more than 85,000 residential houses across Ukraine. Of these, 10 thousand are high-rise buildings. There is no electricity or heat in Sumy, Chernihiv stays without central heating and water.
According to Oleksiy Chernyshov, the damage is estimated at more than 100 billion euros with all the destroyed schools, kindergartens and infrastructure.
– Some cities are practically leveled to the ground. Ukraine needs a Marshall Plan. That is why the status of an EU candidate country is so important for us, because it means that we will have a concrete plan of how it will happen.
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