President Metsola receives the Honorary Doctorate from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv 


During her visit to Kyiv, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola received the Honorary Doctorate from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Addressing students, President Metsola paid tribute to the University's work in nurturing the next generation of leaders.

Dear Rector Volodymyr Buhrov,
First Vice-Rector Ksenia Smyrnova,
Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk,
Dear professors,
Dear students,
Dear Europeans,

It is an honour to stand before you today, in the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, to receive this honorary doctorate and pay tribute to this great institution's work in nurturing the next generation of leaders. Of Ukrainian leaders. Of European leaders.

Since the start of the Russian invasion, I have had the privilege of visiting Ukraine several times. And let me say, witnessing the destruction, the death, the hardship, all the abandoned houses that not too long ago millions of people had called their homes has never gotten easier. I will never forget that the first time I came to Kyiv, on 1st April 2022, was the day Ukrainian soldiers liberated the city of Bucha, only to uncover the utter barbarity of the Russian regime. 

Yet, amidst the devastation, Ukraine has also shown me the strongest and most powerful form of courage, of defiance, of hope with which any nation, any people can believe in. When I arrived in Kyiv, a few weeks after the start of Russia’s illegal war, the city was completely empty. There were checkpoints everywhere, and when we arrived at the Ukrainian Parliament, I suddenly saw hundreds of parliamentarians in an almost normal hemicycle, working, holding meetings. At that moment, I understood that light will always, always, triumph over darkness.

On that visit, I had the honour and responsibility to deliver - in person - the European Parliament’s message of support to the plenary of the Verkhovna Rada. Two years into Russia’s illegal invasion into your country, on the 9th of May, Europe Day, I want to assure you that our message still holds. Today and for as long as it takes.

The European Union and the world have seen you bravely defending your country. But we understand that you are fighting not only to protect your homes and your territory. You are fighting for what we all believe in. Freedom. Democracy. The rule of law. For those ideals that bind us as sisters and brothers. That make us, all, European.

That is why EU institutions and Member States have rallied together with unprecedented unity to provide political, diplomatic, financial, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and its people. And why we will continue to do so. Why we have uncoupled ourselves from Russian energy, why we have adopted 13 packages of sanctions to impede the financing of Russia’s war machine and why we will never rest until every single perpetrator of these heinous war crimes is brought to account. Beyond a recognition of the European Parliament’s work, I see this honorary doctorate as a responsibility to keep championing our shared values and to continue standing alongside Ukraine.

We know the sacrifice Ukrainians are enduring for Europe. Even and especially in these challenging times, your country has made great efforts in aligning itself with the EU acquis - and here let me say what a pleasure it is to be working so closely with Chairman Stefanchuk, for the European Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada to have such strong relations, in the process of Ukraine implementing the necessary reforms.

The European Parliament was the first EU institution to call for Ukraine to receive EU candidate status and we were the strongest advocate for EU accession negotiations to start last year. And we will continue to push for Ukraine to be gradually included into the EU single market and sectoral programmes, including our flagship Erasmus+ initiative. Because we understand and believe in the transformative power that EU enlargement brings. And that it will make Ukraine better, safer and more prosperous in a stronger and resilient European Union.

Going forward I must tell you that the process of enlargement will not be easy. I experienced it myself when my country made the historic decision to join the European Union. And while it is true that EU membership will affect every single Ukrainian. It is also true that it will require the commitment of every single one of you.

As a student myself, roughly your age, working to support my country in its path to join the European Union was my cause. I was there every day, on my University campus in Malta not too different to this one, convincing other students and friends of the transformational potential that EU membership held for our country. Perhaps I spent a little too much time doing that, and not enough studying to get my actual degree. At least that is what my parents would say if you asked them. 

But my point is that there can be all the frameworks necessary in place, all the agreements inked and all the timelines established, but the role that Generation Europe has to play is essential in each prospective EU country. I am proud to have been part of Generation Europe in my country. Now, Generation Europe in Ukraine is all of you. 

The responsibility of shaping your country's historical trajectory is in your hands. 
The responsibility of shaping the destiny of our European project is also in your hands. There is no reason to doubt that one of you, one day, could be standing in my place. 

Dear friends,

Your resilience and determination to come to University and to further your education, even as an unprovoked and illegal war rages on against your country, is admirable. Perhaps you find inspiration in your country's leadership. Perhaps you do it in honour of your loved ones fighting on the front. Perhaps you take courage from the combative spirit of your University's namesake, Taras Shevchenko. Wherever you draw your strength from, I want to commend you for taking this path.

In these difficult times, your country needs visionaries, it needs strategists, it needs fighters, it needs humanitarian workers, but it also needs students - future doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, politicians, leaders like you. Because when this brutal war ends and Ukraine emerges victorious - Ukraine and Europe will be looking to you.  

And that is why we are grateful to this University for keeping its institutional doors open and its programmes running in the most difficult of circumstances. Thank you Rector Volodymyr Buhrov, thank you First Vice-Rector Ksenia Smyrnova, thank you to all professors and staff. 

As the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv anthem goes: 

“Glorious history teaches us 
To do good within these walls,
The elite of students is the hope of the state.
This is where our future has grown!”

And let it continue to grow. 
For Ukraine and for Europe.

Slava Ukraini. 

The speech has not been checked against delivery.

You can read the President's speech in Ukrainian here.