Is Putin about destroying the European Union? Sociologist and migration researcher Gerald Knaus sees the war in Ukraine as a challenge for all of Europe.

According to the Austrian sociologist and migration researcher Gerald Knaus, the war in Ukraine will decide the future of the European Union.

It is now a question of whether power breaks the law again or whether democracies in Europe can live side by side peacefully and with equal rights and make borders superfluous through networking and integration, said Knaus on Wednesday evening at the opening event of the Phil.Cologne philosophy festival in Cologne. The turning point consists in resolutely defending the vision of 1990 – a Europe of democracies based on human rights.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s narrative is that the Europe created after 1990 will not last. In his imagination there are only great powers and spheres of influence. A structure like the European Union, in which small states and large states live together peacefully, embedded in structures without an imperial center, is, in Putin’s eyes, an absurdity, a fata morgana. That’s why he set out to destroy the EU.

Ukraine’s desire to join the EU

Knaus said that Ukraine’s desire for quick EU accession was essentially triggered by the shining example of neighboring Poland and Romania. In Poland and Romania, accession to the EU has triggered a dramatic catching-up process. “Suddenly roads were being built, suddenly mayors and then a prime minister in Romania were imprisoned for corruption.” This triggered a fervent desire, especially among young Ukrainians with no connection to the old Soviet Union, to become a member of the EU as well.

“We don’t know how the war will end,” Knaus pointed out. “Perhaps in a few months President Zelenskyy will make a peace saying: ‘We cannot reconquer the territory in the east.’ But then it is all the more important that Europe sends a signal now: we want the territory, the Ukrainian democracy that we have here, as European allies. With the perspective that at some point a democratic Russia can also come along.”