The Prime Minister's speech at the Swedish Presidency's high-level meeting on child protection
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, to state the obvious: in the long run, very few things matter more than those we will discuss here today. Every child is every parent’s greatest responsibility in life. But at the same time, all children are ultimately our common responsibility.
I am honoured to be one of the hosts of this conference. And it’s particularly important that we are joined by key stakeholders: children and young people taking part in our meeting – present here in Stockholm, and from Ukraine.
This Swedish EU Presidency is taking place at a time when war is raging in Europe, again. For more than a year, the people of Ukraine have suffered from Russia’s full-scale invasion and cruel atrocities.
We have long known that in war, children are those who suffer first and most. And this is true also in Ukraine. From the bloody attacks at the train station in Kramatorsk last year, to recent missile attacks in Dnipro and Uman, many children have been among the victims.
Other kids have been wounded, uprooted from their homes and separated from their families.
The Swedish Presidency is working tirelessly on several initiatives to ensure accountability for the crimes committed by Russia. Our transatlantic efforts will continue, but they have already yielded results.
I am pleased that we will soon launch the International Centre for the Crime of Aggression in the Hague. Those responsible will be brought to justice.
Allow me to explicitly point to accountability for Russia’s forced transfers and deportations of children from Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been taken by Russia, without consent.
According to the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, these actions are war crimes. The decision by the International Criminal Court, to issue arrest warrants against Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, is a good beginning.
We strongly support the Court and its investigations. Don’t underestimate the bad long-term consequences from these brutal family separations. Future generations years 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.
The war has also exposed Ukrainian children – and girls in particular – to risks of trafficking and sexual exploitation. This, too, has to be stopped.
Ukrainian friends: it remains our common resolve to stand with you. We admire your determination and strength, fighting back and struggling to secure your freedom.
Supporting Ukraine is the number one priority for the Swedish EU Presidency. We’re working hard in Brussels to uphold the pressure on Russia. Unity has allowed us to put in place ten sanction packages, and right now we are working on the eleventh.
Looking to the future, Ukraine’s reconstruction has already started. I’m encouraged by the participation of so many young Ukrainians here today. And I am proud of our good cooperation on the crucial topics we will discuss at the conference.
I want to direct my final words to Ukraine’s Minister of Social Policy and the entire Ukrainian delegation:
You are fighting for the right to decide your own future. You are courageously defending your democracy and your freedom. But also defending our European values of liberty. You can count on our support and solidarity for as long as it takes.
Ukraine’s future is in Europe. Slava Ukraini!