Press Releases Ukraine: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell following the EU-Ukraine Association Council

Ukraine: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell following the EU-Ukraine Association Council

Good evening,

I am happy to welcome Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Denys] Shmyhal to Brussels. Everybody knows that the partnership with Ukraine is one of the most strategically important that we have around the world. And it is very significant for us. It reflects the wide range of areas of our cooperation, as well as the frequency of our exchanges.

[The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement] is the most wide-reaching agreement that the European Union has with any of its partners. It has delivered so much for Ukrainian citizens and also for us.

Today, we have reaffirmed our mutual commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration.

In our exchanges, I underlined the European Union’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people in face of the coronavirus pandemic.

I also noted that the European Union has already provided significant overall financial assistance to Ukraine. We are talking about €16 billion since 2014. And we are already helping Ukraine gain access to vaccines through COVAX and are exploring ways to further support Ukraine through a vaccine sharing mechanism at the European Union level.

I reassured the Prime Minister of the European Union’s unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

This is a message that I also passed in my meeting last week to Foreign Minister [of Russia, Sergei] Lavrov, including the need to fulfil and implement the Minsk agreements.

You know very well that the European Union does not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.

We will continue to fully support the diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will continue to support the efforts in the Normandy format, the Trilateral Contact Group and in the OSCE format.

The duration of our economic sanctions against Russia remains linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements.

We talked a lot about the reform efforts made by Ukraine. Much has been done, but we expect reforms to continue to advance despite the pandemic, particularly to strengthen the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

There is a need to restore broad public trust in Ukraine’s judicial system and to develop and implement an anticorruption agenda to ensure the independence of anti-corruption institutions.

We also continue to insist on a full investigation into the PrivatBank bank fraud that took place 6 years ago.

We also discussed our extensive cooperation and Ukraine’s economic integration and regulatory approximation with the European Union, which is very much beneficial for our trade with Ukraine and the economy.

Climate action and environment are a priority for both of us. The European Green Deal is a way of approximating to our policies and legislation.

And finally, we agreed to launch a comprehensive review of what both Ukraine and the European Union have achieved with this [Association] Agreement so far.

I think that it has been a long and profitable meeting. All these issues have been put on the table. We have had a frank and intensive discussion and I think that today is a good day for Ukraine and for the European Union, because everything has been put in our communication [joint press release], having reached agreements on all – sometimes difficult – issues.

Prime Minister, thank you for your presence in Brussels today. Thank you Commissioner [for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi] for your strong commitment to provide spirit to the agreement that we have with Ukraine in the framework of our Eastern Partnership. I am very happy to see you [Prime Minister Shmyhal] here and I am happy to see our cooperation and partnership going from strength to strength on the way forward.

I am going to give the floor to the Prime Minister [of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal] and after, for sure, Commissioner [for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi] would like to add some more specific points.

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Q. Ukraine wants to join the European Green deal. Is the European Union ready to take Ukraine on board? What exactly would you expect from Ukraine, in terms of ecological transformation? Especially considering that Ukraine last year was reducing nuclear in favour of coal energy production.

About the Green Deal and Ukraine – the implementation of the Green Deal as part of the fight against climate change is going to have very strong and deep geopolitical consequences. Some assets that today are very much valuable they will not [have value in the future] and others which today do not have value will have a lot. And one of the problems that affects our relationship with Russia and with Eastern [Partnership] countries is gas supply.

In Ukraine, they will have to face an important energy transition and we are ready to help Ukraine on that. At the European Union-Ukraine summit in October, we already welcomed Ukraine’s ambition to approximate their policies and legislations with our European Green Deal. Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Prime Minister [Denys Shmyhal] have already had meetings to discuss the approximation of Ukraine to our European Green Deal and to identify the most appropriate way in which we can support this difficult transition to a green economy, yesterday.

It is a transition that is more easy for some countries and more difficult for others, depending on the energy mix that they have and the natural resources they can use. But at the end, the purpose is the same, it affects all of us. And we at the European Union we know very well that our efforts [alone] will not be enough. We need to have partners, and Ukraine has to be one of these partners.

Q. I would like to ask the High Representative and Commissioner to indicate the three most important reforms that you expect from Ukraine.

If I had to choose just one, not three, just one, I would point out to the judiciary reform. This is the mother of all reforms. You cannot pretend to have rule of law, human rights, whatever you want, without an independent and efficient judiciary system. This is the core of a democratic country: separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Without this, it is difficult to try to fight against corruption or whatever.

From this point of view, we have been talking with Prime Minister [Denys Shmyhal] about the Constitutional Court decisions. I think that it is clear that there are three main reasons to work in order to build an efficient and independent judiciary. This is a fundamental element of a well-functioning democracy; this is the most important tool against corruption; and it is not a condition that we, the European Union, put on the table. It is something that Ukrainian people need and ask for. Even if the European Union did not exist, this should be an important objective for the Ukrainian society, to build an independent and efficient judiciary. I know how difficult it is, but it is a must.

Q. About this review of the Association Agreement, can you say when are you going to restart it? When can we expect the results of this review? Can you say a few of your expectations from this review? Could you tell us when could we expect the signing of this common aviation area agreement between the European Union and Ukraine? What is the problem now, after Brexit has taken place?

Being double hatted, my work is already too complicated. Do not ask me to be triple hatted. Do not ask me to be High Representative, Vice-President and Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain. That really is too much. I am not going to go into to this game, but I know very well the problem and I can ensure you that the European Union remains committed to signing this agreement as soon as possible. What does it mean, as soon as possible? [It means] when it will be updated to reflect the fact that the UK will no longer be a signatory of this agreement.

Q. High Representative, after your recent visit to Moscow, do you have some kind of new impression on the situation in Donbass, in particular on the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements, mainly on the ability and desire from the Russian side to fulfill them. Just because from one side it looks like a deadlock, what could be the way out of this deadlock?

I think that about my visit to Moscow everything has been said. I spent hours yesterday in the European Parliament talking about it. I can repeat once again what I have already said. During my meetings with Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Russian, Sergei] Lavrov it was clear that we [the European Union] defend Ukrainian sovereignty, [its] territorial integrity; that we talked about the human rights violations on the Crimean peninsula; and clear, we requested the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements, which is a strong condition in the relationship between the European Union and Russia. This was high in the agenda, we discussed a lot. I am not going to go into the details, but as far as the Minsk agreements are not being fulfilled, the normalisation of the relations between the European Union and Russia will not happen.

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