Support to Ukraine is the most important priority during the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU. On 1–2 June, the Swedish Presidency held a high-level meeting on protecting children to highlight how Ukrainian children have been affected by Russia’s aggression, and to discuss what EU Member States can do to respond to their needs. A very large number of Member States signed a declaration at the meeting.
Over seven million people from Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes and seek temporary protection from Russia’s aggression, both within Ukraine and in other European countries. The overwhelming majority are women and children.
“Thousands of Ukrainian children have been taken by Russia, without consent. According to the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, these actions are war crimes. Don’t underestimate the bad long-term consequences of these brutal family separations. Generations from now will grieve, remember, and condemn. On a Swedish initiative, individuals involved in these illegal transfers were listed under EU sanctions – and we will continue our efforts. The next step will be to extend the listings as we prepare the next sanctions package – making sure no one goes unpunished, says Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
The meeting focused on how the EU can support Ukraine in the area of social policy, and exchanging lessons learned formed an important part of this. Moderator and Ombudsman for Children in Sweden Elisabeth Dahlén led panel discussions, and speakers included Her Majesty Queen Silvia, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Minister for Social Services Camilla Waltersson Grönvall, Ukraine’s Minister of Social Policy Oksana Zholnovych,Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President and European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, and UNICEF’s Executive Director Catherine Russell.
In addition, President Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena Zelenska, took part digitally. A key aspect of the meeting was child participation – both through video greetings by children in Ukraine, and Ukrainian children living in Sweden who took part in the meeting and asked the panellists questions.
Declaration of continued engagement
The Swedish Presidency has initiated a declaration to support the protection of Ukrainian children. The declaration will mobilise support among EU Member States for continued engagement in protecting the children who have been affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The declaration also urges the European Commission to continue prioritising the reconstruction and reform of Ukraine’s child protection system. At the meeting, a large number of Member States signed the declaration.
“I am proud and pleased that so many Member States signed the declaration. The situation of children and violations of their rights should be acknowledged in both humanitarian efforts and in long-term support to the reconstruction of Ukraine. The declaration emphasises the importance of Member States exchanging knowledge and experiences in this area. I look forward to continuing to work together, says the Minister for Social Services Ms Waltersson Grönvall.
Source – Swedish Government
Swedish PM’s speech at the Swedish Presidency’s high-level meeting on child protection
Stockholm, 2 June 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, to state the obvious: in the long run, very few things matter more than those we will discuss here today. Every child is every parent’s greatest responsibility in life. But at the same time, all children are ultimately our common responsibility.
I am honoured to be one of the hosts of this conference. And it’s particularly important that we are joined by key stakeholders: children and young people taking part in our meeting – present here in Stockholm, and from Ukraine.
This Swedish EU Presidency is taking place at a time when war is raging in Europe, again. For more than a year, the people of Ukraine have suffered from Russia’s full-scale invasion and cruel atrocities.
We have long known that in war, children are those who suffer first and most. And this is true also in Ukraine. From the bloody attacks at the train station in Kramatorsk last year, to recent missile attacks in Dnipro and Uman, many children have been among the victims.
Other kids have been wounded, uprooted from their homes and separated from their families.
The Swedish Presidency is working tirelessly on several initiatives to ensure accountability for the crimes committed by Russia. Our transatlantic efforts will continue, but they have already yielded results.
I am pleased that we will soon launch the International Centre for the Crime of Aggression in the Hague. Those responsible will be brought to justice.
Allow me to explicitly point to accountability for Russia’s forced transfers and deportations of children from Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been taken by Russia, without consent.
According to the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, these actions are war crimes. The decision by the International Criminal Court, to issue arrest warrants against Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, is a good beginning.
We strongly support the Court and its investigations. Don’t underestimate the bad long-term consequences from these brutal family separations. Future generations years from now will grieve, remember, and condemn.
On a Swedish initiative, individuals involved in these illegal transfers were listed under EU sanctions – and we will continue our efforts. The next step will be to extend the listings as we prepare the next sanctions package – making sure no one goes unpunished.
The war has also exposed Ukrainian children – and girls in particular – to risks of trafficking and sexual exploitation. This, too, has to be stopped.
Ukrainian friends: it remains our common resolve to stand with you. We admire your determination and strength, fighting back and struggling to secure your freedom.
Supporting Ukraine is the number one priority for the Swedish EU Presidency. We’re working hard in Brussels to uphold the pressure on Russia. Unity has allowed us to put in place ten sanction packages, and right now we are working on the eleventh.
Looking to the future, Ukraine’s reconstruction has already started. I’m encouraged by the participation of so many young Ukrainians here today. And I am proud of our good cooperation on the crucial topics we will discuss at the conference.
I want to direct my final words to Ukraine’s Minister of Social Policy and the entire Ukrainian delegation:
You are fighting for the right to decide your own future. You are courageously defending your democracy and your freedom. But also defending our European values of liberty. You can count on our support and solidarity for as long as it takes.
Ukraine’s future is in Europe. Slava Ukraini!
Source – Swedish Government