Von der Leyen in Kyiv for Europe Day
Europe and Human Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence
This year's Europe Day, celebrated on the 9th of May, saw President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen visit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to meet with President Zelensky (Peleschuk, 2023). Europe Day celebrates “peace and unity” in Europe, marking the ‘Schuman Declaration’, a proposal that would lead to economic and political cooperation after the Second World War amongst European countries through the European Coal and Steel Community and later the European Union (European Union, 2023).
Von der Leyen’s visit to Ukraine shows symbolic support of solidarity with Ukraine’s struggle with the EU. Ukraine, from this year also recognizes the 9th of May as Europe Day (Deutsche Welle, 2023).
In Kyiv, von der Leyen said that Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion is one that is in the defense of European ideals that “we hold dear” such as “our liberty, our democracy, our freedom of thought and speech”, all of which are celebrated on Europe Day (Peleschuk, 2023). President Zelensky said in a press conference with von der Leyen that “Our efforts for a united Europe, for security and peace, need to be as strong as Russia's desire to destroy our security, our freedom, our Europe” (Deutsche Welle, 2023).
May 9th coincides with the days that commemorate the end of World War II. Victory in Europe Day is celebrated on May 8th in most European countries, Russia on the 9th, and also in Ukraine until recently, when they changed it to May 8th to align with the rest of Europe (Deutsche Welle, 2023).
As Europe Day was celebrated, at the same time Russia held its annual Victory Day parade in celebration of the end of World War II as their invasion of Ukraine continues to take place. The ongoing war is considered the biggest conflict on European soil since the Second World War.
Sources and further reading:
European Union. (2023). Europe Day. Retrieved from
Deutsche Welle. (2023, May 9). Ukraine: Von der Leyen visits Kyiv to mark Europe Day. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved from
Peleschuk, D. (2023, May 9). EU's von der Leyen visits Kyiv as Russia marks war anniversary. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eus-von-der-leyen-kyiv-russia-marks-world-war-two-anniversary-2023-05-09/