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Brussels, 16 May 2011

Statement by Commissioner Füle on the occasion of the signature of the Joint Co-operation Initiative for Crimea Financing Agreement

Mr Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, Mr Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, Mr Basil Dzharty and I have had productive talks today. Amongst other subjects, we discussed EU-Ukraine relations, the important reform agenda. We also discussed regional development and how the EU can support the economic development of Crimea and in general contribute to reducing disparities affecting certain regions in Ukraine in the framework of its bilateral relations with Ukraine and the Eastern partnership. We also touched upon inter-ethnic dialogue and the question of Crimean Tartars in particular, an issue which the Commission has and continues to follow with interest.

I am delighted to sign the Joint Co-operation Initiative for Crimea Financing Agreement today and to launch this important cooperation with Mr Dzharty. The approval of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to this ambitious programme means that we can work together on a new set of concrete measures to support the development of Crimea and Sevastopol.

In the next four years, the European Union will allocate €12 million to this initiative, and we will focus on sectors which we have identified jointly as priorities: in particular I would single out tourism and attracting foreign investment.

It is also important to stress that we will not be neglecting the social needs of the region: nearly half of the funds we are allocating will be targeted at rebuilding the infrastructure of some of the poorest parts of the region.

The EU has a long experience of regional development and cohesion policies and I am happy that we can begin to translate some of this experience into our relations with Ukraine. The European Commission has already supported Crimea’s preparation of its Socio-Economic Development Strategy 2011-2020 and the Regional Operational Plan which was recently adopted by the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic. We also now have two EU Info Centres operating in Simferopol and in Sevastopol.

In July 2009 a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a dialogue on regional policy and development of regional cooperation was signed in Brussels. I am glad to hear that the State Strategy for Regional Development (SSRD) is being finalized in Ukraine, and that this will take into account the major trends of regional development in the countries of the European Union.

Dear Guests, launching the Joint Co-operation Initiative for Crimea gives a signal that we want to see sustainable economic and social development across all of Ukraine, to ensure that the benefits of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area which we are negotiating are shared by all Ukrainians.

I am very encouraged by the support that has been given to the Joint Co-operation Initiative for Crimea by national and regional authorities, and I would like to record my thanks for this excellent co-operation. The establishment of the Committee on Crimean affairs in the Verhovna Rada is very good news. We look forward to maintaining close contacts with this committee.

I hope our co-operation with Crimea sets an example for the rest of the Eastern Partnership, where the EU will shortly launch a new platform on Regional Development. I therefore anticipate with pleasure the successful implementation of this important programme.

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