An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
Check against delivery!
We had a very long, very positive, very intense morning of work. But first of all, Mr. Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman], it is really a pleasure to welcome you, here in Brussels, together with all your team, for the fourth meeting of the European Union-Ukraine Association Council. We met for the first time since the entry into force of our Association Agreement and of visa free travel for Ukrainians to the European Union. And these two achievements show that by working closely together we can achieve really tangible and positive results for our citizens. If we look at the numbers of trade exchanges between the European Union and Ukraine, they show similar results: very positive, very concrete, and very much real in terms of everyday life of our people.
Today we discussed recent progress in the many significant reforms Ukraine is undertaking. I would like to highlight for example reforms in the social sphere – like healthcare and pensions reform, laws on privatisation, land reform and energy - all issues that can help Ukraine unlock its enormous potential for economic development, and improve the lives of its citizens. It is obviously now important to make these reforms irreversible – and I was very pleased to hear, as always, the determination of the Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman] in this respect – and progress even further on the reform agenda.
The fight against corruption is the foundation for all reforms. Much has been achieved but there are some policy conditions in the fight against corruption that still have to be met. And I know how personally dedicated the Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman] is to this fight. We discussed today some developments which concern us as Ukraine's friend and partner in the fight against corruption. And, again, I was reassured by the Prime Minister willingness and determination to face these issues. Ukraine has established – with the support of the European Union and other international partners – new anti-corruption institutions.
We have been calling on Ukrainian authorities to reinforce their efforts to ensure the independence, operational capacity and full effectiveness of the national anti-corruption institutions. And we will continue to work together and to follow closely the actions and proposals of the relevant Ukrainian authorities in this field. I also want to highlight the role of civil society in both the reform agenda and more specifically in the anti-corruption work in Ukraine. The devotion and perseverance of the civil society in Ukraine is truly exceptional and really a strong asset to the country.
Our Association Council acknowledged the important efforts made to increase transparency in the banking and energy sectors, as well as macroeconomic stabilisation in Ukraine. Tackling corruption will, obviously, also improve the business and investment climate, fostering economic growth in Ukraine. Let me also take this opportunity to thank you, Mister Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman], to congratulate you on the adoption of the budget yesterday.
Ukraine's efforts on the reform path are all the more remarkable taking into account the difficult security situation. The Association Council was also the opportunity for us and the Member States to reaffirm very strongly that the EU remains unwavering in its support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
We follow very closely the developments on the ground in eastern Ukraine. We discussed with the Prime Minister [of Ukraine] the situation in Ukraine just now. Unfortunately, we are still far from a full respect of the ceasefire. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission must have full, secure and unimpeded access to all conflict affected areas. The safety of its monitors must be ensured: they must be free from intimidation and harassment, which occurs mostly in the separatist-held areas. We discussed also the humanitarian situation, as the needs of the civilian population need to be addressed in an inclusive manner and the supply of water and energy sources protected.
Today we also signed – actually we witnessed the signature of - a financing agreement for the EU support programme to eastern Ukraine. This 50–million-euro contribution focuses on local governance, economic recovery, community security and social cohesion in the government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
We also took the opportunity to reiterate the non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. We also condemn the ongoing militarisation of the Crimean peninsula and the deterioration of the human rights situation there, including the ban on activities of the Crimean Tatars’ self-governing body, and the persecution of those who do not recognise the illegal annexation. We have strongly reacted publicly to all such cases recently. We also repeat our call for the immediate release of all Ukrainian citizens detained illegally in illegally annexed Crimea and in Russia.
Once again, Mister Prime Minister, let me thank you very much for your dedication, your commitment, your work, and you know that you can always count on the European Union to accompany you step by step on your reform agenda. Thank you very much.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I147854