First of all, let me congratulate my colleague Ambassador Ioana Bivolaru on organizing this conference. I would also like to thank you for inviting me to share with the participants some of Ukraine’s experience and vision of the future cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership which its tenth anniversary we mark this month.
For the past ten years, as a member of this initiative, Ukraine had a unique opportunity to see up close and personal all its strengths and underused potential.
Ukraine’s strategic interest with regard to the Eastern Partnership consists in granting the European perspective to the interested partner states, thus transforming the initiative into the connecting link with the EU enlargement policy.
The whole array of bilateral relations between Ukraine and the EU is the bilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership.
Given that the Eastern Partnership is based on the major achievements which at the time of establishment of the initiative have already been accomplished by Ukraine in its relations with the EU (negotiations on the Association Agreement, visa dialogue, etc.), Ukraine doesn’t consider the Eastern Partnership as a framework policy, but as a complement to its more ambitious bilateral relations with the EU.
Therefore, development of relations with the EU in a bilateral format is an absolute priority for Ukraine, while the Eastern Partnership is seen primarily as a forum for multilateral dialogue on the implementation of reforms and cooperation with the EU.
Taking into account the aspiration of Ukraine to become a full member of the EU in the future, what was cemented in the Constitution of Ukraine in February this year, we, like Georgia and Moldova, are interested in reflecting it in the declaration on the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.
The EU supports Ukraine in ensuring a stable, prosperous and democratic future for its citizens and is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Association Agreement (AA), including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), is the main tool for bringing Ukraine and the EU closer together, promoting deeper political ties, stronger economic links and respect for common values.
Since spring 2014, Ukraine has embarked on an ambitious reform programme, aiming to stabilize its economy and improve the livelihoods of its citizens.
Priority reforms include the fight against corruption, reform of the judiciary system, improvement of the business climate and energy efficiency, as well as reform of public administration, including decentralization.
To streamline the Eastern Partnership on its 10th Anniversary this year and further beyond 2020, we suggest considering following initiatives in areas envisaged by “20 deliverables to 2020”, endorsed during the latest Eastern Partnership Summit on the 24th of November 2017.
Firstly, I would like to inform about the efforts of our state for a stronger economy.
The Association Agreement including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), entered into force on September 1st 2017, although parts of the agreement have been provisionally applied since the 1st of November 2014 and the DCFTA since the 1st of January 2016. The DCFTA is a major milestone in bilateral trade relations, offering new economic opportunities to both sides. The agreement triggers reform of Ukraine’s legal framework, aiming to align it with that of the EU. Ukrainian businesses receive stable and predictable preferential access to the largest single market in the world, with over 500 million consumers. And EU businesses are able to benefit from easier access to the Ukrainian market, building new relationships with suppliers and partners. In 2018, exports from Ukraine to the EU increased by 15% (20,1 bln USD) and Ukrainian imports from the EU by about 11,5% (23,1 bln USD), while overall trade increased by 13% (43,3 bln USD). The reforms that are anchored in the AA/DCFTA will improve the overall business climate in Ukraine, including curbing corruption and eliminating protectionist measures, which will in turn increase investor confidence. Temporary ‘Autonomous Trade Measures’ for Ukraine were introduced in October 2017, topping up the quantities of agricultural products Ukraine can export to the EU without paying customs duties and accelerating the elimination of customs tariffs for several industrial products. The EU has supported Ukrainian authorities in establishing an independent regulatory authority for electronic communications, as well as in improving Ukraine’s cyber resilience.
We would like that a stronger economy would be based on removal of non-tariff barriers and extending the benefits of the Digital Single Market to the Eastern Partnership countries.
Secondly, Ukraine had taken steps for a stronger governance.
A nationwide decentralization programme (€90 million) is providing advice and support to improve the transparency and accountability of local and regional authorities and enhancing local administrative centers. 27 administrative centers have been opened in all Ukrainian regions. A public administration programme (€104 million) aims to embed a new generation of civil servants, reorganizing government structures to mirror EU standards and developing best practice in policy making and advancing key sector reforms. An anti-corruption programme (€15 million) is supporting the newly established anti-corruption institutions, strengthening parliamentary oversight and capacities of civil society and independent media to contribute to the fight against corruption. A programme developing the private sector (€110 million) and fostering Ukraine’s economic recovery spreads through technical assistance to improve the legislative framework for SMEs and it also supports the set-up of business advice centers in the regions that facilitate access to finance.
In our opinion a stronger governance should include: establishing cooperative platform tasked with cooperation in countering hybrid threats; inviting the Partner countries to the workshops and conferences held by the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats; and closer cooperation with the EU in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) area, in particular, defense initiatives like Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
Thirdly, Ukraine had taken measures for a stronger connectivity.
The EU has provided support for the government of Ukraine in establishing an independent energy regulatory authority and new gas and electricity laws to improve efficiency in the energy sector. In close cooperation with partners and financial institutions such as EIB, EBRD and the World Bank, the EU continues to support the modernization of Ukraine’s gas transport system, reconstructing parts of the east-west transit pipelines. The European Union is the largest donor to the new Safe Confinement above the destroyed Unit 4 of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, which was erected in November 2016. The EU has provided support for an ambitious transport agenda, contributing significantly to the AA and the DCFTA. Transport is the backbone of increased movement of people and goods between Ukraine and the EU and will foster trade and economic growth.
To ensure a stronger connectivity, it is necessary to develop electricity, gas and oil interconnections, what is of great importance both for the EU and its Eastern partners.
Due to their geographical location and developed network of transport infrastructure, the Partner States could serve as a bridge between Europe and Asia, in particular with the view on recently adopted EU Strategy “Connecting Europe and Asia”.
For a long time, Ukraine has been advocating for the introduction of joint border controls with EU Member-states. The implementation by Ukraine of joint border checks with Poland and Moldova revealed clear-cut benefits for travelers and entrepreneurs.
Talking about a stronger society, I would like to report the following.
Visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports entered into force on the 11th of June 2017. In one year, over half a million Ukrainians travelled to the EU without needing a visa. Ukraine is one of the largest beneficiaries in the Eastern Partnership region of the Erasmus+ programme, with more than 5,200 Ukrainian students and education staff benefitting from the Erasmus exchange programme in the period up to summer 2018. The EU supports a €10 million civil society programme that aims to reinforce its capacity to support and monitor the reform programme that is underway.
Ukraine welcomes the establishment of the first Eastern Partnership European School in Tbilisi. Such schools should be established throughout all Eastern Partnership countries to provide more access for children to European education. In this regard, Ukraine is ready to launch a joint project of establishing the European School in Ukraine.
In January 2019, we expressed our desire to open a second European school by sending a letter to European Commissioner Johannes Khan.
Ukraine is also interested in developing, within the framework of this school, multicultural summer and winter schools to help to build informal networks of schoolchildren according to their interests. Moreover, this school may be focused on creating special courses for teachers to help them to be aware of the best practices in education and competent approach.
In addition, we are interested in launching the College of Europe Campus in Ukraine, as well as we continue our negotiations with the European side about the creation of the Ukrainian European Youth Camp, as a platform for educational and cultural exchanges.
It is worth noting that the education reform in Ukraine is recognized as one of the Government’s key priorities. Due to the European support instruments, in particular, the Erasmus+ program and the eTwinning project, as well as to the broad cooperation with the European Training Foundation, Ukraine has a great opportunity to implement systemic reforms in secondary, vocational and higher education.
Ukraine is one of the most active participants of the Erasmus+ program. Among more than 150 partner countries, it ranks third in academic mobility projects. Since 2015, there have been more than 10,000 Erasmus+ academic exchanges between Ukraine and the EU for students and professors. More than 9,000 young people and employees in the youth sphere from Ukraine have taken part in youth projects Erasmus+ on volunteering, mobility, short training and political debate.
An important priority of the EU Youth Program, which was also reflected in “20 deliverables to 2020”, is the reform of vocational education in order to improve employment opportunities for young people, reducing the gap between educational skills and market needs.
Ukraine has already begun the vocational education reform. On the basis of its conceptual framework, developed in cooperation with the European Training Foundation, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine has prepared a draft law “On vocational education”.
Moreover, the European Commission decided to launch the project “EU4Skills: Better Skills for Better Jobs in Modern Ukraine” which was designed to contribute to the modernization of training to ensure that skills provided are more demand-driven and responsive to a new, competitive economy. According to the Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union on financial support for improving workforce skills, € 58 million of the EU assistance will be directed to the reforming and modernizing of the vocational education system in Ukraine.
In our opinion, the future cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership should focus on digital economy, primarily by reducing roaming tariffs and recognizing digital signatures, on energy sphere, in particular by integration into the EU Energy Market, on implementation of joining Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) arrangements, as well as on the security issues. We have to build on the positive experience of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) related issues. This format could be transposed on other areas of our cooperation and cover approximation of Partners’ legislation in such areas such as Digital single market, customs cooperation and energy sphere.
So, congratulating Romania on its Presidency in the Council of the European Union, I would like to wish you a successful activity on the strengthening of the global role of the European Union.
I thank you for your attention!