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Ukraine: When hope and history rhyme

Roberta Metsola is the president of the European Parliament and Kaja Kallas is the prime minister of Estonia. 

With war returning to Europe, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the political and economic outlook. But this isn’t a time to be pessimistic about the Continent.

This is our whatever-it-takes moment.

Crises have always prompted Europe to take giant leaps, to become stronger, more determined. This is true now more than ever. Russia’s illegal and brutal aggression has woken a peacefully sleeping geopolitical giant, filling us with a resolve not seen for decades. And in these difficult times of geopolitical shifts and choices, hope, courage and determination must continue to be our guiding lights.

The decisions we make this week will be generational, shaping the future of our Continent and the future of what lies at the heart of our freedom. Ukraine has made a choice. In choosing to fight against autocracy and aggression, it has decided for Europe. Now it’s on us to respond.

Granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and providing a clear perspective to Georgia will give hope. It will give a strong signal of belief in shared European values. And it will say, loud and clear, that free choice, the prospect of peace, and freedom are possible.

Much like us and the others who have embarked on this journey before, Ukraine knows what this hard choice means. Becoming a member of the European Union is challenging. We remember this firsthand, having gone through the process culminating in our two countries joining the bloc together in 2004.

That choice means picking political pluralism, democracy, and the rule of law. It means choosing the strongest economic and competitive forces, and accepting pressures both within and through Europe´s global trading system. It means opting for openness and transparency and accepting criticism.

Europe means choosing the separation of powers and protecting strong institutions. It means protecting our free society and free market. It means respecting and protecting minorities and celebrating diversity. Because freedom means diversity and not more uniformity.

And we would make those same choices again today.

Openness and healthy competition are exactly what the Kremlin fears. Because if Estonia, Malta or Ukraine can prosper in free and open societies, it would mean Russians also can — if they choose. This is why keeping Europe open is the ultimate weapon against autocracy, totalitarianism and oppression.

The return of geopolitics has made visible that Europe is an idea. That it is a choice for continuous change.

Our union isn’t a finished political project but an ongoing adaptation, improving our societies based on cooperation and the realization that we’re stronger together. We jointly choose the direction and the speed of change. And opting to become a member of the EU doesn’t mean selecting an end state. Rather, it’s the start of a journey toward more and lasting freedom, toward opportunities and belonging.

It may be hard to recognize in the midst of things, but in the words of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, “there are moments when hope and history rhyme.”

The momentous geopolitical window is now open once more. Hope and history are in our hands at this very moment.

Let our better angels guide us in making the right choices. Let us embrace opportunity once more — embrace the right to Europe, the right to belong and the inalienable right to choose. Because Europe is foremost an idea.

And we choose Europe. We choose freedom. Ukraine does too.

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