'European way of life is under threat': Zelenskyy delivers historic speech to European Parliament

'European way of life is under threat': Zelenskyy delivers historic speech to European Parliament
EP Plenary session with formal address by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President. Credit: EP Photo

Shortly after his arrival in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a historic speech in the European Parliament on Thursday morning, in which he emphasised that the war in his country is not just about territory, but that the "European way of life is under threat."

Around 11:00, Zelenskyy entered the hemicycle of the European Parliament, flanked by President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, and to a standing ovation from the MEPs.

"This is like David against Goliath," said Metsola as she introduced Zelenskyy. "Your leadership inspires. When we think of Ukraine, we think of heroes. He shows the political will to join the EU and therefore deserves all European support. You must win."

Metsola advocated supplying fighter jets and long-range missiles, and also endorsed Zelenskyy's ten-point plan in which he set out his demands for peace talks – including a full Russian withdrawal and prosecution for war crimes.

'We will always fight against disrespect'

Visibly emotional, Zelenskyy started his speech with "Slava Ukraini!" ("Glory to Ukraine!") and opted to address the MEPs in Ukrainian. He stressed that he has come to Brussels to protect Ukrainians. "The European way of life is under threat. We will not allow that."

"We are Europeans," Zelenskyy said. "The totalitarian war must not be lost. If Ukraine loses, Europe loses. This war is not a simple territorial struggle in a remote corner of Europe. It is about a dictator with huge resources using dictatorial means and the Kremlin trying to destroy all central European values. In Russia, nobody has values. Very many of their citizens are cannon fodder. The Russian regime not only hates social equality, it feeds xenophobia and does not accept reality."

Zelenskyy placed particular emphasis on shared European values. "We are defending ourselves against the most anti-European force," he said, adding that he believes Ukraine, which shares the same values, belongs with the other EU Member States. "We have to overcome that anti-European force."

"Thank you for defending us. This is important for you too, wherever you are. You must join the fight. We will always fight against disrespect, and fight for a good future for our children," he said, adding that they can only win if everyone works together.

"Only a victory will guarantee that our values are preserved. Ladies and gentlemen, European journalists and politicians, police officers, professors, teachers, scientists, construction workers, bank employees: they have never depended on politics as much as they do now. Each of you can have a concrete impact on a common victory."

"The Russians want to destroy the Ukrainian and European way of life. But we will not allow that," Zelenskyy said, adding that "peace and protection" are two important conditions for giving future generations in Ukraine a good life.

"I get applause, but it is the millions of people who support Ukraine who deserve the applause," Zelenskyy continued, amid already loud applause. "Therefore: thank you. Thank you for supporting us. We ask you to keep doing that and welcoming refugees. This is about life and death. Thank you."

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Zelenskyy also thanked those who helped by providing military support. "And I thank you for allowing me to be here, defending the European lifestyle together. You have proved with your strength that you can be a house of justice, of innovation in which we break through what Europe was."

He added that Ukraine "will one day be a part of a victorious European Union," and stressed the importance of military support and sanctions against Russia. "Together we can win this. Europe can win. If we join forces. We have to defend our lifestyle. Europe must remain Europe. Long live Ukraine."

After another standing ovation, the Ukrainian national anthem played in Parliament.

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