EU liberals leader visits Kyiv as Ukraine takes spotlight in EU elections

EU liberals leader visits Kyiv as Ukraine takes spotlight in EU elections |

As all main EU political parties have placed Ukraine and defence at the fore of their EU elections campaign, the EU liberals chief and campaign leader, Valérie Hayer, visited Kyiv on Tuesday (26 March) to show support and announce her plans to integrate Ukrainian parliamentarians and leaders into Renew Europe. 

Hayer is the President of the EU liberals group in the European Parliament (Renew Europe) and one of its leading candidates for the EU elections. 

Two months before the vote, the three-day visit is critical for the war efforts. Ukraine’s armed forces lack military equipment and need continued financial and material support from EU countries.

While this is the first time a liberal group leader has travelled to the battered capital since the beginning of the war two years ago, Hayer follows in the footsteps of her counterparts from the centre-right EPP group Manfred Weber, the Socialists’ Iratxe García and the Greens co-president Terry Reinke.  

According to sources close to the matter, former group President Stéphane Séjourné already planned the visit, with Hayer taking over his agenda when she succeeded him.

“[We want] to already prepare them to enter our Parliament so that when they become official observers, they’re already efficient and present,” Hayer said after meeting with Rada Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk from Zelensky’s liberal party Servant of the People (SP).

Hayer vowed to integrate SP parliamentarians and leaders into the Renew Europe group by inviting them to group meetings and summits so they could get “familiar with our values” and “to get a direct Ukrainian perspective when drafting laws.”

On top of that, she also signalled that liberal “experts” will regularly meet with SP representatives “to advance on the various chapters to close before signing any accession treaty.”

Ukraine in the EU elections campaign spotlight

While the visit is framed as part of Hayer’s agenda as Renew’s president, it will likely feed into the campaign efforts of the liberal coalition, ‘Renew Europe Now,’ and her French party Renaissance, which lists defence and support for Ukraine as a key focus in its electoral programme.

“We need to ramp up our defence capabilities, from research to military cooperation, to help Ukraine win the war against the Russian aggressor”, Renew’s electoral programme reads.

Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, a prominent liberal politician, has long been considered a top pick for the EU’s top diplomat in charge of foreign affairs and defence policy or commissioner for the defence industry, to be decided after the EU elections.  

Doubling down on the Liberals’ defence-focused campaign message, German politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmerman, chief of the defence committee in the German Bundestag, was appointed as one of the campaign’s leading figures.

The visit is also likely to be used by the Liberals to showcase their support for Ukraine while they are in a neck-to-neck race to win votes from the far-right and conservative parties.

Forces on the extreme right and left sides of the hemicycle have openly been in favour of a stop in weapons deliveries or fighting, despite Ukraine and its backers saying that might give Russia the advantage. 

However, the centrist group is not alone, and all main political parties have placed the topic of support for Ukraine at the forefront of their electoral promises.  

Parties preparing more visits to Kyiv

Meanwhile, other European political parties are considering further trips to Ukraine. 

“Another Ukraine visit is obviously on the table”, European Green Party Co-Chair Mélanie Vogel told Euractiv. “We will do it at a moment beneficial for the Ukrainian cause.” 

The Party of European Socialists (PES) also told Euractiv they intend to arrange another official mission to Kyiv following the one in April 2022.

Hayer’s visit follows a cross-party mission from the European Parliament in Kyiv on Monday and Tuesday to discuss stepping up efforts to support Ukraine.

Contacted by Euractiv, Renew Europe and Hayer’s cabinet declined to comment. 

Paul Messad contributed to the reporting.

[Edited by Aurélie Pugnet/Alice Taylor]

Read more with Euractiv

EU liberals leader visits Kyiv as Ukraine takes spotlight in EU elections |

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