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Good afternoon, it is a big pleasure for me to share this press conference with the Prime Minister Honcharuk [Oleksiy Honcharuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine] and with my colleague, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement [Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement], on the first visit of the new Prime Minister of Ukraine to Brussels.
Ukraine is a key partner for the European Union. It is not only a close neighbour, but it is also a key partner.
Today, it has been very clear that we strongly support your ambitious reform agenda in Ukraine. I have already conveyed this to President Zelensky [Volodimir Zelenski, President of Ukraine] and it is my intention – and also the intention of the Commissioner [Olivér Várhelyi] to visit Ukraine in the coming weeks and to express there our strong support.
Ukraine has demonstrated renewed dynamics in the Normandy talks. Now we expect the same constructive approach from other parties.
I think that we have to reiterate [that the EU does not recognise] the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia and our strong support to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Mr. Prime Minister, we have been impressed by the ambitious reform agenda of your Government and the significant progress already achieved during the short time of your five months in office.
We have discussed today the implementation of our Association Agreement. It is the most comprehensive agreement the EU has with any country and it continues bringing Ukraine the help and support of the EU.
We have also studied the ambitious economic agenda of the Ukrainian government and we have discussed how to implement our Association Agreement, and how can we further contribute to realising Ukraine’s economic potential. For us, the EU, Member States and citizens, a safe, prosperous and democratic Ukraine is a big investment in our future.
We have been following all the aspects of the Association Agreement. It is a dynamic instrument. After having updated the energy annex, we will now work on climate and environment. This also demonstrates how Ukraine and the EU can cooperate on the “European green deal”, which will require a lot of “green will”.
We have also discussed how to strengthen resilience of both the EU and Ukraine and how Ukraine should continue strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption, including on PrivatBank fraud.
I also look forward to the discussion on Ukraine at the Foreign Affairs Council in March and I wish you your best success.
Link to the opening remarks: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-183409
Q. On your upcoming visit to Ukraine, could you be more specific regarding places where you want to go? Do you foresee more of the EU and your personal involvement in solving the conflict in the Donbas?
Certainly, I would like to visit the most relevant parts of the country from the point of view of external relations. I would like to visit the Donbas, the border where there is still a certain amount of military activities, in order to perceive by myself how the situation is there.
We have to make the most important efforts, first of all, to stop people being killed. Second, I want to underline that the results of the last [Normandy format] meeting in Paris has to be implemented on the ground. And we have to develop efforts on several lines, first, humanitarian assistance, second demining. We can save a lot of lives, and third major infrastructure and feasibility studies and economic prospects, in order to prepare future possible reconstructions.
Q. Have the sides discussed the situation in the Kerch Strait and the freedom of navigation there both for Ukrainian and EU vessels? In view of some kind of restrictions imposed by the Russians in the area do you consider some kind of action EU and Ukraine could jointly undertake to solve and relieve the situation in the area?
Certainly. We have to be assertive and continue monitoring what is happening there. We continue to call on Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage to and from the Sea of Azov, in accordance with International Law. We have increased our support to help mitigate the impact of Russia’s destabilization actions in the Sea of Azov region, via a number of measures including the opening of the European Union offices in Mariupol and support for local economic diversification. We have to continue asserting our support to the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and in this specific case it requires a free and unhindered passage to and from the Sea [of Azov].
Link to the Q&A: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-183410