Once more, Mrs. Ursula Vonderleyen has managed to chill her audience with her eloquent words: “We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream.” These two sentences were, in my opinion, the key ones in the speech she, literally wrapped in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, gave at a news conference in Brussels on June 17th. Both sentences I deem worthy of some thoughts.
“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective”, she pathetically said. Well — to begin with, I find it a bit odd -and somewhat enigmatic too- her picking of the word ‘perspective’. This detail got me a bit baffled. Why ‘perspective’ instead of, let’s say, ‘ideals’ or ‘values’, which would’ve seemed more appropriate and grandiose for the occasion? As I understand, words in political speech are carefully chosen so they transmit very particular meanings and shades; therefore, if Ursula said ‘perspective’, perspective she meant and not something else. But whatever be the hue she wanted to tint her sentence with, it comes to me so subtle and hard to guess that I’m not feeling capable of successfully undertake the task of guessing; so I won’t even try.
In any case, what I think important to focus on is the following: if ‘we all’ Europeans ‘know’ that Ukrainians are ready to die for our perspective, then you can bet we know a lot more than they themselves do. I thought -alongside with so many other people, I’m sure- that Ukrainians were dying to defend -what they consider- their territory from -what they consider- an ilegitimate invasion. Dying, by the way, quite reluctantly and not so ‘readily’ as Vonderleyen fantasizes. I know for a fact that, except for the extreme nationalists, Ukrainian soldiers in general don’t want to fight this fratricidal war (neither do the Russians, by the way). A high proportion of the Ukrainian population has some sort of relatives in Russia, and killing each other isn’t to anyone’s taste.
But to get back on track, I don’t know out of where the Vonderleyen gets this idea according to which what drives the Ukrainians to die so readily is ‘the European perspective’ and not the defence of their country. Of course it can’t be denied that west-Ukrainians are enthusiastic Europeanists, but there is a very wide gap between this zeal and welcoming death on behalf of Europe or its perspective; most of all taking into account that Ukraine’s effective admission in the EU will take years or decades… supposing there’s any Ukraine left by then, that is. Thus, I’m certain that more than one Ukrainian has been extremely surprised to learn that they are fighting for Germany, France or Italy, but not for Ukraine! How’s that? Well, I suppose the reader will agree with me that, much more likely, what the woman in blue and yellow did was tell an insincere but rosy piece of rubbish in order to encourage the Union member estates to cheerfully -and as insincerely- embrace Ukraine’s candidacy to the club. It seems obvious that, for her, the goal justifies the nonsense.
As for the second sentence: “We want them to live with us the European dream”, we can say quite as much, since that plural (‘we’) implies that all -or at least a huge majority of- Europeans are looking forward to taking Ukraine in; which constitutes an overly inaccurate assumption or a rather unacceptable generalization. I’m still to see a poll throughout all the member estates evidencing a majority and unequivocal desire, on our part, for that country to join the Union. Who has ever authorised Vonderleyen to speak for all of us? When did that happen? Besides, any adequately informed person knows that, as of today’s Ukraine, its EU membership would mean a disastrous -if not fatal- economical burden for the rest of present members; and if ‘us the people’ were to be consulted in referendum, someone might get quite surprised — or not?
Still, the irony of that literary chef d’oeuvre by Mrs. Ursula lies in the fact that, in her belief that she was uttering yet another rosy and memorable piece of rhetoric meant to get stamped in our consciences, she actually didn’t even suspect to what point her words were true — except that their meaning was the opposite of the intended one. Firstly, because Ukraine is so far away from entering the EU, that its citizens may indeed call it a dream; and an almost unreachable one, for that matter. But mostly because, albeit the European Union might, if you like, be a lovely, edifying and even well-meant project, endorsing the highest values and harbouring the most elevated social and economical aspirations for its citizens (virtues which I’m personally not ready to grant it), in fact it’s getting increasingly difficult for an increasing part of the world population not to realize that, in truth, this Europe is nothing but a dream; a dream which is, besides, turning for many of its citizens into a real nightmare. If this is what we want the Ukrainians to ‘live with us’, I’m afraid we can’t truthfully say that we love them.
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