As President Voldymyr Zelensky prepares to host his first Ukraine-EU summit, our partnership, forged in adversity, continues to go from strength to strength.
In Kiev this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet with Zelensky. Juncker’s term in office will end later this year but he can look at the strengthening of Europe’s partnership with Ukraine as one of the European Commission’s major successes.
While the faces at the top may change, the underlying principle remains the same. The EU and Ukraine are committed to each other and are working together to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement – and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area – signalled our mutual commitment to shared European values of the rule of law, free and fair trade and democracy.
This agreement is Ukraine’s anchor to Europe, and has allowed us to build resilience, strengthen human rights protections, and safeguard our democracy.
It has also provided the basis for the ambitious political and legal reforms transforming Ukraine.
Since 2014, we have made more pro-European reforms than during all previous years of Ukrainian independence.
We are re-writing all of our agricultural and industrial standards to bring them in line with the EU, reforming our judicial system to give people confidence in the rule of law and opening up our markets to competition and investment.
Our European neighbours have supported us at every stage, pledging almost €13bn to aid our reforms. Of course, trade is a two-way street and our success is Europe’s success.
“Jean-Claude Juncker’s term in office will end later this year but he can look at the strengthening of Europe’s partnership with Ukraine as one of the European Commission’s major successes”
Just last year, exports from Ukraine to the EU grew by eight percent while EU exports of goods to Ukraine rose by nine percent.
In services, exports to the EU increased by 13 percent, and the EU’s exports to Ukraine swelled by 23 percent.
Overall, Ukraine has a trade deficit with the EU of €4bn, while the EU now accounts for roughly 40 percent of our exports and imports respectively – making it Ukraine’s largest trading partner.
Despite the commitment and goodwill on both sides, there are always issues with trade agreements.
For example, imports of poultry meat caused concern among our partners who wanted to preserve the market’s delicate balance.
However, understanding on both sides and a willingness to find a compromise produced a sensible agreement, which is now being considered by EU member states.
“The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement – and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area – signalled our mutual commitment to shared European values of the rule of law, free and fair trade and democracy”
This agreement can ensure free and fair trade while guaranteeing a stable and predictable trading environment for poultry meat between the EU and Ukraine.
It protects EU farmers from further increases of poultry imports from Ukraine and recognises the legitimate expectations of Ukrainian producers to export to the EU, all the while meeting the same health, food safety and welfare standards to which European producers are held.
The fact that the two sides have come to an understanding illustrates our mutual commitment and reflects our desire to step up the pace of much-needed reforms.
Ukraine has found a home in the European family of nations, and the rules-based system which underpins our mutually beneficial trading relations.
When Presidents Zelensky and Juncker meet this week, it will mark a new chapter in EU-Ukraine relations.
They can look forward with confidence, knowing this partnership is well-founded and working for both sides.