25th Oct 2016

Soros to EU: Help 'new Ukraine' against 'new Russia'

  • Soros, Van Rompuy and Moscovici spoke in front of a full room in Brussels' Fine Arts Museum (Photo: Valentina Pop)

US investor and philanthropist George Soros on Monday (30 June) told an audience in Brussels' Fine Arts Museum that the EU is a model of international governance which needs to support "new Ukraine" in its struggle against Putin's "new Russia".

Soros was speaking alongside EU council chief Herman Van Rompuy and France's former finance minister, Pierre Moscovici.

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The 83-year old Hungarian-born Soros said Europe may have overcome the "acute phase of the euro-crisis", but that it still faces a "new existential threat" on the political side: "A resurgent Russia, a new Russia which is a rival form of government for the EU."

"It is very important for the EU to prevail, but the EU has to recognise the magnitude of the situation," Soros said.

"The EU is an exercise in international governance and rule of law, whereas Russia has emerged as a new Russia, a challenge to that way of life. This is not a new invention, the assertion of nationalism led to the Second World War," said the financier who survived the Nazi occupation in his country and fled to England in 1947.

A strong supporter of the EU, Soros is also critical of the "overcomplicated ways" the Brussels bureaucracy works and the lack of vision about what to do in the eastern neighbourhood.

He said the agreements signed with Ukraine should have been more flexible and based on more interaction with the civil society.

"It is an existential issue for the EU to support the new Ukraine, which is exactly what the EU ought to be: engaged people, civil society passionately involved in issues of governance, constitutional reforms. People are willing to sacrifice their lives, as we saw on the Maidan. The challenge is to make sure not only to resist the Russian aggression, but to help this new Ukraine to succeed, with technical assistance for instance," he said.

Van Rompuy, for his part, said the EU was right to sign a free trade deal with Ukraine.

"There is a strong longing in Ukraine for EU values: democracy, rule of law, human rights and away from corruption, manipulation, violence. Were we wrong? Not at all, it's the people who wanted it," Van Rompuy said.

He said Russia was always kept informed about the deal, which took years to negotiate.

"But the aim of Russia is not a free, democratic, sovereign Ukraine, but a weak, unstable Ukraine who may not make the choice for Europe and prosperity. We need to be on the side of Ukraine," he said.

End of ceasefire

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko on Monday ended a unilateral ceasefire with separatists in the east, saying: "We will attack, we will free our land".

He blamed pro-Russia militants for continuing their "criminal activities" and destroying any chance for peace to be established.

France and Germany had been urging Ukraine and Russia to work together and establish a more permanent ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are holding key buildings and border crossings.

EU leaders at a summit last week threatened Russia with tougher sanctions if it does not facilitate peace in Ukraine.

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