Blog: Support for Ukraine has dominated the European Citizen’s Prize, highlighting European solidarity in Ukraine’s struggle
December 19, 2022

Blog: Support for Ukraine has dominated the European Citizen’s Prize, highlighting European solidarity in Ukraine’s struggle

For the past 15 years, the European Parliament has awarded the annual European Citizen’s Prize. The prize rewards activities promoting cross-border cooperation within the EU, better mutual understanding, and closer integration between citizens and member states. It can also be awarded for everyday activities that reflect the values enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Every year, each Member of the European Parliament ( MEP) has the right to nominate one candidate – a person or organisation that, in their opinion, deserves to get the European Citizen’s Prize.

In 2022, 30 organisations and individuals were awarded the European Citizen’s Prize. They came from across the European Union dealing with various challenges and issues: from pensioners’ rights to gender equality in business. What makes this year’s list of winners special is the fact that 9 out of the 30 winners are organisations involved in helping Ukraine. Since 24 February 2022, they have been providing Ukrainians assistance with housing, food, clothing, legal aid, medical aid, first-aid kits, drones, generators, body armour, and much more. These nine organisations have long been an essential part of the ecosystem of support for Ukraine and Ukrainians in the full-scale war launched by Russia against Ukraine.

Jonas Ohman, Founder and Head of the NGO Blue/Yellow © Reuters

Among them are, for example, the Blue-Yellow’ initiative, based in Vilnius, which has been supporting Ukraine’s armed resistance since 2014. It was founded by Jonas Ohman, a Swedish-born filmmaker.

Since 2014, supported by Lithuanian and international partners, the initiative has been providing Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers with non-lethal supplies. From 24 February 2022, it has become the focal point of Lithuania’s yearning to help the Ukrainian people, bravely fighting for European values. Due to their developed structure and activities since 2014, the Blue-Yellow initiative was perfectly placed to help when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In less than a month, the ‘Blue/Yellow’ initiative collected over €20 million in donations from Lithuanian people to assist Ukrainians. The money raised is used to buy helmets, bulletproof vests, medicine, clothing, etc. “The activities of Jonas Ohman and his ‘Blue/Yellow’ initiative, involving long-term, transnational cooperation, contribute to strengthening our European spirit,” the organisers of the Citizen’s Prize say.

Jose Andres meeting President Zelensky in August © Reuters

Another interesting winner is Spanish chef José Andrés. He travelled to the border between Ukraine and Poland within hours of the start of the Russian invasion to serve hot meals to people fleeing the war.

Since then, the cook has not only remained in the area to prepare and coordinate the preparation of hundreds of dishes for refugees arriving daily at Poland’s borders from different parts of Ukraine but has also mobilised and supported local restaurants so that they could supply those affected. With his humanitarian work, José Andrés contributes to the achievement of the rights and values reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, such as human dignity, and giving hot and nutritious meals to thousands of people affected by the conflict.

Among those who received the European Citizen’s Prize this year is also the Coordination Centre of Promote Ukraine in Brussels. This is an organisation that I am honoured to volunteer for. It was created in 2014 and since then has been engaged in establishing a high-quality dialogue between Ukrainian and European civil societies. It was founded by Ukrainian Marta Barandiy, bringing together Ukrainians and Belgians concerned about the fate of Ukraine. Before 24 February 2022, the team was already active in organising various public discussions and meetings, published a magazine with expert opinions on the most important political and security topics, and organised actions and protests. In the winter of 2021, Promote Ukraine held an international action #StopRussianBrutality, which was attended by members of national parliaments, NGOs, MEPs, and opinion leaders, and became a loud call to the world – respond to the threat now!

Since 24 February 2022, Promote Ukraine has become a hub for those who want to help Ukraine from Brussels. The team has gathered more than a hundred volunteers who work every day for victory: they organise demonstrations, hold advocacy meetings, rally the public, take care of the cultural adaptation of refugees, organise meetings and cultural entertainment for Ukrainians in Belgium, purchase humanitarian aid, help the Ukrainian military with protective ammunition and first-aid kits, and much more behind the scenes.

The latest large-scale actions were the Ukraine-EU human chain of unity (when Ukrainians and Europeans joined hands and created a chain around the building of the European Commission), as well as the Ukraine-NATO human chain of unity, as a sign of gratitude and a call to grant Ukraine the status of a NATO member.

Receiving the European Citizen’s Prize is a great recognition for the Promote Ukraine team and its hundreds of volunteers, that their actions are essential and visible.

I am convinced that the fact that 9 out of the 30 winners of the European Citizen’s Award are in some way or other connected to Ukraine is a sign of the EU’s belief in our joint victory in establishing the security and stability of the European continent and the world.

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