E.U. ambassador to U.S. discusses Ukraine on “The Takeout”

As the U.S. and allies scramble to get military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as it endures the second week of Russia’s invasion, E.U. Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis says the E.U. is closer to Ukraine than it has ever been and is focusing on granting temporary residency to displaced civilians to aid the estimated one million refugees who have fled Ukraine in just the last week.

Lambrinidis told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast, “We are very much focusing on ending this war, and we absolutely will focus on continuing to support Ukraine and bring it closer to the E.U.” 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky applied for membership to the E.U. this week after the Russian invasion started, but becoming an E.U. member is a complex process that can take years. For instance, Poland, which joined in 2004, took 10 years to meet the criteria for full membership.  

As Russia’s onslaught continues, Lambrinidis stressed that Western solidarity in the face of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s aggression is important because Putin’s other goal beyond taking over Ukraine is to divide the West on geopolitical issues. 

“We have very much realized that this is existential. It does remind us of the Hitlers and Stalins of the past,” Lambrinidis said. Estimates of the number of Ukrainians killed in the conflict range from several hundred to around 2,000.

“[Putin’s] trying to literally kill two birds with one stone. He is killing, as we speak, Ukrainians on the ground and trying to eliminate that country from existence as an independent nation. And that is very local, and very real, and very bloody,” Lambrinidis said. “But he is also trying to tear apart NATO and NATO unity. He is trying to tear apart the United Nations and international law. He’s trying to create a world where might is right.” 

Lambrinidis, who is a former special representative of the European Union for human rights, said the E.U. is committed to assisting refugees displaced by the fighting. On Thursday, the European Union interior ministers unanimously backed a plan to allow Ukrainians to live in their countries under temporary protected status for at least one year. 

In addition to a residency permit, Labrinidis said the E.U. is proposing to member states they provide refugees “a right to work, a right for the kids to go to school, and a right to health care.” 

The Biden administration, too, announced it would extend temporary protective status to Ukrainian refugees for 18 months.  

Lambrinidis praised the heroism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has remained in Kyiv throughout the invasion. 

“He spoke at the European Parliament two days ago from a place in Ukraine, and I was a member of the European Parliament for seven years, I was a vice president of the European Parliament seven years,” he said. “I’ve heard many speeches, inspiring speeches. I’ve never seen every single member of that parliament from right and left jumping on their feet and applauding the way they did.” 

Highlights

  • On Zelensky: “He has turned himself into the face of resistance and heroism and hope, and I think that is an inspiration to all. He spoke at the European Parliament two days ago from a place in Ukraine and I was a member of the European Parliament for seven years, I was a vice president of the European Parliament seven years. I’ve heard many speeches, inspiring speeches. I’ve never seen every single member of that parliament from right and left jumping on their feet and applauding the way they did.” 
  • Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians in E.U.: “We are proposing to our member states to agree that they get immediately also a residence permit, a right to work, a right for the kids to go to school, and a right to health care. And this is something that we do because we will not allow Putin to kill those people and to kill their spirit. And if they are forced to flee now, well, they are the citizens of Ukraine. They’re coming back, hopefully to a free Ukraine soon and we have to play our role to protect them there.” 
  • E.U. membership for Ukraine: “Membership to the EU as a process, is a long process, but the fact is that we are closer to Ukraine today through the association agreement and through everything we’re doing, including recently for their electricity supply, than we’ve ever been. We are very much focusing on ending this war, and we absolutely will focus on continuing to support Ukraine and bring it closer to the E.U.” 

  • Putin’s goals: “[Putin’s] trying to literally kill two birds with one stone. He is killing as we speak Ukrainians on the ground and trying to eliminate that country from existence as an independent nation, and that is very local, very real, and very bloody. But he is also trying to tear apart NATO and NATO unity. He is trying to tear apart the United Nations and international law. He’s trying to create a world where might is right.” 

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 
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