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Kyiv, 11 February 2020
I am very honoured to be here with you tonight. As you can see, for this Commission, relations with Ukraine are a priority and highly on our agenda. This is my first visit to an Eastern Partnership country, which shows the shared importance we attach to our relations with Ukraine.
This Commission is a geopolitical Commission and geopolitical priorities cannot be credibly represented globally if we cannot do it effectively in our neighbourhood.
We have discussed with the Prime Minister in detail all the reforms this Government has already put on the table and in place. It’s quite impressive.
Also when it comes to the implementation of the Association Agreement, the progress is quite impressive. In the first 3 years of the existence of the Association Agreement, we have managed to increase the trade between us by half. But we still have a lot we could do.
We will continue to support Ukraine to implement the Association Agreement and reap the benefits this will bring to Ukraine and also to the people of this country.
It is for that reason also that I tried to come as early as I could to bring the news to Ukraine that this Commission is interested in creating a much stronger economic drive in the Eastern Partnership.
Having seen already the progress, that provides us with an opportunity to accelerate our work, to build together a strong resilient market economy for Ukraine and for the people of the country.
We should work on all areas where we can bring growth and jobs back to Ukraine. Especially when it comes to connectivity, when it comes to the Green Deal, energy, transport, education, everything that can contribute to making a strong economy in Ukraine.
We agreed with the Prime Minister that this is a joint priority of ours and this should also boost foreign direct investment in this country.
We will work together for this and we will work to create a business environment that is based on the rule of law, with the eradication of corruption and oligarchic influence. This is going to bring change to the economy, but also to the democracy and functioning of the country.
Because of course we continue to attach very high great importance the rule of law, the functioning of democracy, freedom of the press, all the fundamentals. That includes also the rights of people belonging to national minorities.
On this last issue, it is very important to come to a solution that is also acceptable and works for the minorities of this country.
And referring to the very long list the Prime Minister instantly handed over to me in terms of tasks, I will do my best to deliver on those. But let me just flag some of the issues covered.
We are open to facilitate as much as we can trade between the EU and Ukraine. And therefore we agree that it is a priority to establish the ACAA - basically the synchronisation of technical standards for industrial products so that we can facilitate trade.
Our people will start working on this as a priority. And we will look at this issue very closely together and we will hopefully be in a position to make big progress, still this year, by starting the actual negotiations.
We have also agreed to advance and frontload our work when it comes to the review of the DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) due in next year. And our colleagues will be looking very carefully on the areas were we could supplement the agreement according to its rules and we will again return to this issue very soon do we can have a very effective and short procedure next year to update the agreement.
And I have promised to the Prime Minister that I will take it as a priority to get the common aviation agreement signed still this year.
And finally but maybe most importantly, I also brought the news on behalf of the new Commission that of course we stand by Ukraine and we will continue to insist on the full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk agreements.
We take no compromise when it comes to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine and we will continue to stand by it.
Does the Commission think Ukraine is fulfilling the Venice Commission recommendations or should the Education law or any other law be amended?
On the minorities as you know the protection of people belonging to minorities is a European value, a European value that we cherish and which we implement not only in the European Union but also outside in all countries with which we have such strong relations like with Ukraine.
We are looking at the law passed by the Parliament and I think that it is also important to have the respective minorities not only approving but also feeling comfortable with it and its implementation. But I understand that the Ukrainian Government is also working in that direction so I think with a joint effort we can get there and we can put this issue to bed.
Will the ACAA technical standards agreement be signed next year?
One of the most complex areas of EU law is the technical standards. So first we sit down with the colleagues and try to map up the task, this is the first step of any of such kind of negotiations, and we will try to compare first the rules of Ukraine with the EU laws. And then when we get the full picture on the level of compliance, we will have to of course make recommendations to Ukraine if there are still issues to be addressed.
And after that when we are safe that we have the exact same rules in place in Ukraine and in the EU, then we will move ahead with the formal part of the negotiations. The crucial work is this bit until we get to a level playing field between our regulations. And we will work on this this year. I hope to move to the next stage towards the end of this year, but believe me it will be very speedy if we can achieve it still this year because as I have told you, this is the most complex area of EU law.