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1. We reaffirmed today our continued commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union, on the basis of the Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. We share common values of democracy, rule of law, respect for international law and human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as well as gender equality. The EU reiterated its unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
2. We welcomed the holding of free and fair presidential elections in Ukraine and looked forward to the parliamentary elections on 21 July. The EU side welcomed that the President of Ukraine had chosen Brussels as the destination of his first visit abroad. Both sides discussed advancing their aforementioned commitments, including through continued close cooperation to meet the expectations that the Ukrainian people have expressed for strengthening the rule of law, advancing reforms and fostering economic growth. We discussed the implementation of the Association Agreement, following its entry into force in September 2017 after the December 2016 decision by the EU Heads of State or Government.
3. In this context, we acknowledged the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomed its European choice, as stated in the Association Agreement. We agreed to exploit fully the potential of the agreement and stressed the importance of Ukraine continuing to implement its commitments to that end. We welcomed the success of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which has supported the increase of bilateral trade flows by about 50% since the start of its application in January 2016. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership, we stressed our shared commitment to widening and deepening our cooperation based on the principles of differentiation, inclusivity and conditionality.
4. Both sides stressed the importance of Ukraine maintaining macro-economic stability, keeping the IMF programme on track and implementing all actions within the EU macro-financial assistance programme, as well as maintaining the independence of the National Bank and the stability of the financial sector. The EU stands ready to disburse the 2nd tranche (EUR 500 million) of the fourth macro-financial assistance programme as soon as relevant conditions are implemented.
5. We underlined the EU's substantial and unwavering support for Ukraine and its link to the effective implementation of reforms and policy measures. We recognised the substantial progress made by Ukraine in its reform process, in areas such as health care, decentralization, pensions, public administration, public procurement, which is essential both to meet the demands of Ukraine's citizens and to strengthen Ukraine's resilience to external challenges. We agreed on the importance of accelerating these efforts, in particular in the fight against corruption, including throughout this election year. Effective rule of law, good governance and economic opportunity are important means to tackle foreign influence and destabilisation attempts. We welcomed the commitment of Ukraine to push back on the disproportionate domestic influence of vested interests on the Ukrainian political, economic and media system (“de-oligarchisation”).
6. Building on successful Ukrainian reforms and international support since the Revolution of Dignity, the EU announced the next phases of programmes to support decentralisation, civil society, the fight against corruption, and other key reforms. The EU will continue to support Ukraine in tackling cyber and hybrid threats, as well as disinformation including through strategic communications. Furthermore, we acknowledged the important assisting roles played by the EU Advisory Mission for civilian security sector reform (EUAM) and by the European Commission Support Group for Ukraine (SGUA).
7. We welcomed two years of successful implementation of the visa-free regime for the citizens of Ukraine and its positive impact on people to people contacts between Ukraine and the EU. We underlined the importance of continuing fulfilling the visa liberalization benchmarks and accelerating reform efforts, in particular in the fight against corruption and as regards judicial and law enforcement institutions. We welcomed the appointment of the judges to the High Anti-Corruption Court and progress towards making the High Anti-Corruption Court operational. We agreed on the urgent need to re-criminalise illicit enrichment and to ensure the necessary independence and effective functioning of all anti-corruption institutions.
8. We welcomed the adoption of the updated energy annex of the Association Agreement. We further agreed on the need to complete gas and electricity market reform, including completion of unbundling, with a view to a progressive integration with the EU energy market. We reaffirmed Ukraine's role as a strategic transit country for gas, ensuring affordable, secure and sustainable supplies to the EU. In this context, we reconfirmed our readiness to engage in a trilateral process facilitated by the European Commission on the contractual framework for gas transit to the EU after 2019. We looked forward to further enhancing economic integration and regulatory approximation in sectors such as digital economy, trade facilitation, customs cooperation and Justice and Home Affairs, within the framework of the Association Agreement. As regards digital, the EU welcomed Ukraine's aspirations to further approximate its legislation with the EU acquis in the area of the digital economy. The EU and Ukraine looked forward to further regular interaction, in particular the EU's ongoing two-phase assessment. The EU welcomed and acknowledged the progress made by Ukraine to approximate its legislation in the area of technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment as envisaged by the AA/DCFTA. Before the EU and Ukraine can start the negotiations on an Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products, the EU recalls that the required legislation should be adopted, entered into force and effectively implemented by the relevant Ukrainian institutions.
9. We agreed to improve connectivity between Ukraine, the EU and other countries of Eastern Partnership with a view to facilitating trade, further developing safe and sustainable transport links and supporting people-to-people contacts. We noted the urgency to adopt relevant reform laws in this area, in line with the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. We recalled the importance of concluding the Common Aviation Area Agreement at the earliest possible date. We encouraged further cooperation and effective implementation of reforms in other policy areas covered by the Association Agreement, including through legal approximation. We welcomed the increased participation of Ukraine in EU programs, including Horizon 2020, COSME, Creative Europe, Erasmus+ and looked forward to intensifying the relevant cooperation in the framework of current and future programmes.
10. We reiterated our strong condemnation of the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces since February 2014. We continue to condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, the militarisation of the peninsula and the severe deterioration of the human rights situation there. We called on Russia to allow unhindered access of international organisations and human rights actors in accordance with established international mechanisms to the areas currently not under the control of the Government of Ukraine, including the Crimean peninsula, and to respect international humanitarian law. We called for the immediate release of all illegally detained and imprisoned Ukrainian citizens in the Crimean peninsula and in Russia, including Crimean Tatar activists. We remain fully committed to implementing our respective non-recognition policies, including through restrictive measures. We condemned the Russian measures entitling Ukrainian citizens of the areas currently not under the control of the Government to apply for Russian citizenship in a simplified manner. The EU stands ready to consider further options, including non-recognition of Russian passports issued in contradiction to the Minsk agreements, in close coordination with its international partners.
11. We also expressed our utmost concern regarding the escalation at the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, and Russia's violation of international law. In this regard, we noted with regret that Russia has not implemented the order of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea from 25 May 2019 and urged Russia to comply with its obligations and release without delay the 24 servicemen captured in November 2018 and their vessels. We further called on Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage to and from the Sea of Azov, in accordance with international law. In this context, we welcomed the first concrete steps undertaken by the EU to support the Sea of Azov region, including mine action, psycho-social assistance, infrastructure connections and economic diversification.
12. We agreed to continue cooperating to address the socio-economic and humanitarian consequences of the conflict, highlighting the necessity to ensure the supply of water, electricity and gas across the contact line, to facilitate the movement of people and goods, and to ensure that the people living in areas not under Kyiv's control fully benefit from their rights as citizens of Ukraine. The EU expressed its readiness to support Ukraine's inclusive approach towards its citizens in the affected areas and play a leading role in reconstruction efforts of the country, including in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, once the Minsk agreements have been implemented.
13. We reaffirmed our full support to the endeavours of the Normandy format, the OSCE, including the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, and the Trilateral Contact Group. We stressed the importance of enhancing negotiating efforts aimed at the sustainable and peaceful resolution of the conflict in view of the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides and of measures aimed at rebuilding confidence while underlining the responsibility of the Russian Federation in this regard. The EU recently renewed its economic sanctions on Russia, whose duration remains clearly linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
14. July 17th will mark 5 years since the tragic downing of flight MH17, which claimed the lives of 298 victims. We looked forward to the effective prosecution of those responsible for this tragedy and called on the Russian Federation to accept its responsibility and to cooperate fully with all efforts to establish accountability. In this context, the EU and Ukraine welcome the announcement by the Joint Investigation Team on 19 June 2019 that criminal charges will be brought in the Netherlands against four individuals, call on Russia to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation, and express their full confidence in the independence and professionalism of the legal procedures that lie ahead.