On November 1, 2022, a discussion “European Integration and War: Challenges for Civil Society of Ukraine” was held as part of the UNP Conference. Sintija Bernava, European Union Coordinator,  Working Group 4 ”Contacts between People” Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, Steering Committee Member, Chairwoman of the Board NGO”DONUM ANIMUS” (Latvia), was invited to the discussion.

She addressed the participants of the Conference

Dear   Ukrainians,

If freedom is threatened in one place, it is threatened everywhere.  We are facing a clash between the rule of law and the rule of the gun;  between a rules-based order and a world of  aggression.  Russia  illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014. It has used increasingly aggressive rhetoric towards other neighbouring countries. These are all manifestations of its imperialistic and colonial ambitions. Denying another nation’s right to exist, promoting the idea of supremacy of Russians and their special missionary role in the world – these are all contemporary expressions of racism.

Parliament of Latvia was the first Parliament in the world, declaring  Russia a terrorist state.  After Latvia,  Parliaments of Lithuania and Estonia also declared Russia a terrorist state.

The tragedy of war is that innocent people and unarmed civilians will pay a terrible price. Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused a humanitarian disaster. A third of the Ukrainian population has been forced to leave their homes. Russia is preventing Ukrainian-grown food from reaching the world market. Also, Russia uses its position in the energy market to exert pressure. High energy prices maintain high levels of global inflation, which most dramatically affects the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Death and destruction affect everyone across generations and for a long time.  At the same time, the  bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people are outstanding and impressive. In this very dark time, you  are an inspiration to people across the globe. You are not alone and the Baltic States   will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes!

This crisis is changing Europe as well. Civil society in the Baltic States and across the Europe and beyond  stands in solidarity  in many different ways like never before.  European Union of almost half a billion people has mobilised for Ukraine and  many European countries have opened its borders and people their homes to Ukrainians  fleeing from occupant army  bombs.  Country I come from -Latvia- is providing important military, political and economic support and Latvia has spent over 0.8 % of its GDP on military, economic, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. We are hosting Ukrainian refugees. We are a member state of the European Union and NATO, and thus, as an independent state, we share the responsibility to abide by international law. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine and the aggressor must be held accountable. The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court have already started proceedings on particular aspects of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The European Court of Human Rights has also initiated proceedings.

However, a legal gap remains. No international court has jurisdiction over the main issue – the starting of a war of aggression, the gravest violation of the Charter of United Nations and international law. Therefore, Latvia has called  for the establishment of a Special Tribunal. The main task of the Special Tribunal would be to investigate the responsibility of the Russian state in the crime of aggression. After the war, Russia will have to pay reparations to Ukraine for damages. The Special Tribunal could be part of an international reparations mechanism. The Special Tribunal could be established on the basis of a Resolution of the General Assembly, by another international organisation or a group of likeminded states.

Long live a free and independent Ukraine with brave Ukrainian people. 

Слава Україні!

Sintija Bernava
European Union Coordinator,  Working Group 4 ”Contacts between People”
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum 
Steering Committee Member
Chairwoman of the Board
Non Governmental Organization “DONUM ANIMUS”