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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Speech for the commemoration of 70th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars
Kiev, 16 May 2014
Dear Prime Minister, Dear Mustafa,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Earlier this month, we celebrated the 69th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
With its atrocities in mind and to avoid any new wars, Europe rose from the ruins and engaged in an unprecedented joint effort to build a common European home. Ultimately, this led to the creation of the European Union where many of those who fought each other in the past now work together for a better future.
The hundreds of thousands of pro-EU protesters we saw in Ukraine earlier this year show that the ideas underpinning the creation of the European Union are still very much alive and shared even outside its borders.
For some, the negative consequences of the Second World War lasted for a much longer time. The Crimean Tatars, who had been deported from their homeland in 1944 for their alleged collaboration with the Nazi Germany, were only allowed to return in late 1980s. Their subsequent reintegration within the framework of the Ukrainian state was not without frictions and hurdles, but the process was ongoing.
The illegal annexation of Crimea, which we will never recognise, and the precarious situation of the Crimean Tatars in the new circumstances have made us gather here in Kyiv, rather than in Crimea, for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the deportations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European Union is about rule of law, transparency and accountability. This is what protesters in Maidan aspired for, protesting against lawlessness and impunity. The new Ukrainian Government is well committed to a number of political and economic reforms, including ensuring the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and minority and regional language speakers, in line with the relevant standards of the Council of Europe.
Going through war and deportation back then, was a tragedy for the Crimean Tatars. And what a tragedy and shame that now, in the 21st century, when they got finally back to their lands, they are harassed, intimidated and forced to make imposed choices and accept imposed citizenship of another country.
My mother always told me: you should not lie and you should not steal. Crimean Tatars are sadly again, like in the not so distant past, facing intimidation in their homeland. They have nevertheless remained astonishingly and laudably peaceful.
The European Union stands firm in upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in supporting Ukraine’s long overdue reform process. Support to Crimean Tatars is and will remain an inseparable part of the EU’s commitment to Ukraine.