Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food and European Integration
Time and again, the people of Ukraine have shown that their destiny is European. This connection is not just about geography. It is about the will of the people.
It is five years since the Euromaidan protests proved emphatically that Ukrainians are part of Europe. Let’s not forget that these protests were sparked by attempts to delay the signing of an association agreement with the European Union.
People poured onto the streets to take their future into their own hands, waving European flags and camping under open skies in freezing temperatures, demonstrating why Europe is important, what Europe means and what Europe stands for.
It culminated three months later in the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. This is how far Ukrainians will go for Europe.
The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was eventually signed and entered into force last year. Our EU integration is now a process characterised by an ambitious reform timetable.
Ukraine is a natural and strong economic, political and strategic partner for the EU. As our relationship has deepened, so trade has grown. It is up to both sides now to protect these ties and to continue building on them.
We can expect this relationship to evolve over time and we must not let bumps along the road distract us from the real progress being made. I have little doubt that this spirit of continued cooperation and perseverance will define the fifth Association Council meeting in Brussels this December.
“Ukraine is a natural and strong economic, political and strategic partner for the EU. As our relationship has deepened, so trade has grown”
Ukraine is by far the EU’s largest eastern European trading partner. And trade is growing: Our exports to the EU grew by 27 percent in 2017 and our imports from the EU rose by 22 percent.
At the heart of this growth is the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Signed in 2016 as part of the Association Agreement, it opens the two economies up to each other.
But the DCFTA does more than just put numbers on a balance sheet. It has strategic importance. Ukraine continues to endure aggression from Russia, which illegally occupied Crimea in 2014 and is still fermenting war in our eastern Donbass region. However, this hostility has only brought us closer to the EU.
Since we signed the Association Agreement, we have been playing our part in the deal by harmonising standards and norms. President Petro Poroshenko explained our path earlier this year when he said, “We have to deliver on the suggestions we agreed with the EU on the next steps in our gradual convergence”.
And that is exactly what we have been doing. Full compliance with EU standards means addressing all manner of issues, from high-level industrial dialogue and judicial reform all the way to healthcare reform and privatisation. No stone can be left unturned.
“We are committed to our modern future in a united continent. And as the people demonstrated in the Euromaidan protests, it is one with a European flag”
Last year, we launched an EU-Ukraine High-Level Industrial Dialogue. We have shown that Ukrainian industry is actively applying the best European practices in industrial development and valuable progress has been made in removing technical barriers in trade with the EU.
That is not to say that these reforms have been easy. Progress has its challenges. In September, nearly 4000 citizens took to our parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, demanding a new electoral code.
The road ahead is not always smooth, but it is worth taking. Looking at the long list of reforms Ukraine has achieved in the past year only hardens our resolve.
The EU has encouraged us to continue implementing our public health and health care reforms to stimulate the development of private medicine. A far cry from the state-owned Soviet system of old.
Last year’s Association Council meeting welcomed progress on privatisation, and there has been similar progress this year, including a law passed in January that improves transparency, simplifies privatisation procedures, and minimises price manipulations.
All this shows that Ukraine’s changes are real. We are committed to our modern future in a united continent. And as the people demonstrated in the Euromaidan protests, it is one with a European flag.