Check against delivery!
First of all, let me thank the Prime Minister of Denmark [Lars Løkke Rasmussen] and the Foreign Minister of Denmark [Anders Samuelsen] for gathering us all today. If we are here today it is to clearly say that we stand by Ukraine, by its people, by its government, to support the reforms already done – and I would like to commend and praise the Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman] and all his government for the work done already - and to accompany and support all those reforms that are still to be achieved. We are here with you.
The European Union and Ukraine have never been closer than today. Since 2014, the European Union has invested in Ukraine more than in any other country in the world. We have put together the biggest support package in our history: more than €13 billion.
Our new Association Agreement is the most ambitious agreement that the European Union has ever developed with any partner country. Our Advisory Mission is supporting your work to reform the civilian security sector. And since last summer the people of Ukraine can travel to the European Union without a visa. This was not a signal from our side; this was an achievement as a result of already important reforms. More reforms are needed now - not because we say that, but because we hear the people of Ukraine asking for these reforms and you are the first one to recognise that and working on this agenda. Again, I would like to thank and commend you for your impressive work, Mr Prime Minister.
We all know that reforms are not taking place in a void. The challenges are huge, because of the conflict in the east and because of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The European Union has always underlined Russia's responsibility in this and we keep supporting Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence in a united and decisive manner.
It is our European interest to protect this principle, which is that borders cannot be changed through military force. It is our European interest to help Ukraine grow stronger and more resilient, not only by continuing to work with Ukraine to address the challenges you are facing on the security field, but also through our support to the reform process. We know that the best way to make Ukraine and Ukrainians resilient is to support the reform process.
As we have heard from the Prime Minister, there has been substantial progress over the past year on a number of key reforms.
There has been progress on healthcare and pensions - the first social reforms since 2014; the reforms on decentralisation, public administration, and public procurement will help Ukraine deliver quality service at a lower cost to its citizens; the first independent public service broadcaster has been established two years ago; and the Energy Strategy up to 2035 will, among other things, contribute to the increased energy security of Ukraine, thereby strengthening its resilience.
I remember very well when I last visited Ukraine just about three months ago, we were discussing about the urgent need to fight corruption, including as a first priority the urgency of establishing a High Anti-Corruption Court. I am glad to see that the law establishing the Court has just been approved. I would like to congratulate this and once the court is fully established, Ukraine will have the possibility to live up to the standards recommended by the Venice Commission. This is important in particular to accompany the transitional phase by allowing the High Anti-Corruption Court to deal also with the existing court cases.
The court has so far been the missing element of the puzzle, as other institutions had been created before. Among them, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau has in particular established a good track record. And all these institutions, including the specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office and the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, need to be allowed now to do their work independently and efficiently. And more importantly, the anti-corruption institutions must deliver, including in high-profile cases. One of the most prominent examples of unfinished work is the PrivatBank case, where more than $5 billion were lost.
Anti-corruption activists and civil society also have a very important role to play. This is why we believe the e-declaration requirement for them must be revoked as a matter of urgency.
Tackling corruption and improving the rule of law will not only fulfil the demands of Ukrainian citizens - I remember very well, four years ago this was the main demand - but this will also improve the business climate, encourage investments - including from abroad - and it will help ensure the effective implementation of the visa liberalisation benchmarks. Because all the reforms that we discuss today - and that we support today - will have a positive impact on the lives of all Ukrainian people. We are talking about jobs, we are talking about liberties, we are talking about fulfilling the potential of the Ukrainian economy. This is the change the people of Ukraine want and need. The European Union will continue to stand on the side of reforms and to stand on the side of the Ukrainian people in a very concrete, reliable manner. You know that you can count on us.