Leading a delegation of members of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Kiev today, CoR President Ramón Luis Valcárcel has strongly condemned the escalation of violence and expressed sympathy to the families of the victims. Meeting with civil society representatives from Maidan Square, he voiced support to the Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom and human rights.
As the situation deteriorated in Kiev today, the CoR delegation cancelled its meetings scheduled with Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister and senior officials, reflecting its condemnation of the government's recent actions: "The EU is on the side of democracy and freedom. There is no room for exceptions", stressed President Valcárcel.
Referring to the government's decision to abandon political and free-trade agreements with the EU last November, President Valcárcel said: "For many people in Ukraine, European integration is more than a commercial agreement or a simple piece of paper: it represents a vision for the future, a project offering Ukrainians a perspective of stability, peace, democracy, solidarity and respect for their rights and freedoms", adding that "Given the current events and protests, the Ukrainian civil society needs the support of the European Union now more than ever. We need to keep all channels of dialogue open at all levels of government, encouraging Ukraine's government to achieve its declared objective of European integration and reiterating that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is still possible".
The CoR President further echoed the EU's concerns over recent legislation which restricts Ukrainian citizens' fundamental rights, including controls on the rights of assembly and on the freedom of speech and media. He also emphasised the need to promote local and regional government's autonomy, as well as financial independence in Ukraine, as a means to achieving much-needed democratic reform.
The CoR delegation* led by President Valcárcel also met with Ukrainian members of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP), as well as representatives of Ukrainian regions and cities' associations. The delegation recalled the conclusions of the last Eastern Partnership Summit held in Vilnius which provide a platform for cooperation between local and regional authorities and explicitly recognise the role of local democracy in the EU's Eastern Partnership.
The CoR President and delegation are also due to meet with Evgeniya Tymoshenko, daughter of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister, currently still imprisoned.
* The CoR delegation is composed of Arnoldas Abramavičius (LT/EPP), Mayor of Zarasai District Municipality, Mick Antoniw (PES/UK), Member of the National Assembly for Wales, Dr. István Sértő Radics (ALDE/HU), Mayor of Uszka (Uszka polgármestere), Uno Siberg (EA/EE), Member of Kose Rural Municipality Council and President of the EA Group in the CoR, and Daiva Matoniene (ECR/LT), Deputy Mayor of Šiauliai and Deputy-Minister for the Environment of the Lithuanian government.
The Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) was established by the Committee of the Regions in 2011 to bring a regional and local dimension into the EU's Eastern Partnership. CORLEAP brings together 36 regional and local elected representatives from the EU and the EU's Eastern Partnership countries, including Ukraine.