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Focus on children at high-level meeting on protecting and supporting children in Ukraine

SWEDEN, June 2 - Support to Ukraine is the most important priority during the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU. On 1–2 June, the Swedish Presidency held a high-level meeting on protecting children to highlight how Ukrainian children have been affected by Russia’s aggression, and to discuss what EU Member States can do to respond to their needs. A very large number of Member States signed a declaration at the meeting.

Over seven million people from Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes and seek temporary protection from Russia’s aggression, both within Ukraine and in other European countries. The overwhelming majority are women and children. 

-Thousands of Ukrainian children have been taken by Russia, without consent. According to the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, these actions are war crimes. Don’t underestimate the bad long-term consequences of these brutal family separations. Generations from now will grieve, remember, and condemn. On a Swedish initiative, individuals involved in these illegal transfers were listed under EU sanctions – and we will continue our efforts. The next step will be to extend the listings as we prepare the next sanctions package – making sure no one goes unpunished, says Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

The meeting focused on how the EU can support Ukraine in the area of social policy, and exchanging lessons learned formed an important part of this. Moderator and Ombudsman for Children in Sweden Elisabeth Dahlén led panel discussions, and speakers included Her Majesty Queen Silvia, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Minister for Social Services Camilla Waltersson Grönvall, Ukraine’s Minister of Social Policy Oksana Zholnovych,Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President and European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, and UNICEF’s Executive Director Catherine Russell.

In addition, President Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena Zelenska, took part digitally. A key aspect of the meeting was child participation – both through video greetings by children in Ukraine, and Ukrainian children living in Sweden who took part in the meeting and asked the panellists questions. 

The Swedish Presidency has initiated a declaration to support the protection of Ukrainian children. The declaration will mobilise support among EU Member States for continued engagement in protecting the children who have been affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The declaration also urges the European Commission to continue prioritising the reconstruction and reform of Ukraine’s child protection system. At the meeting, a large number of Member States signed the declaration.

- I am proud and pleased that so many Member States signed the declaration. The situation of children and violations of their rights should be acknowledged in both humanitarian efforts and in long-term support to the reconstruction of Ukraine. The declaration emphasises the importance of Member States exchanging knowledge and experiences in this area. I look forward to continuing to work together, says the Minister for Social Services Ms Waltersson Grönvall.