Speech - The importance of EU-Ukraine cooperation for children
European Commission - SPEECH/13/806 10/10/2013
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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
The importance of EU-Ukraine cooperation for children
Welcome address at the dinner hosted by S. Arbuzov First Vice Prime Minister in honour of the conference "The Way Ahead for the Eastern Partnership" and the inauguration of "Our Kids" Centre by the German-Polish-Ukrainian Society, in Kiev
10 October 2013
This is a very special visit - on my way here I stopped at the SOS Children's Village in Brovary, on my way back tomorrow I will visit "Our Kids" Centre.
Overall, my visit comes at a moment when Ukraine faces important decisions. The political choices that will be made in the next weeks will determine the development of Ukraine's society and economy, its relations with the European Union and the opportunities given to Ukraine's children.
Let me first speak about children – they should always be at the very top of our agenda.
The promotion of the rights of the child is one of the objectives of the European Union itself, as well as of its external actions. The European Union's Nobel Peace prize money was donated to the European Union's Children of Peace initiative. Children's issues also permeate our engagement with Ukraine.
The Association Agenda is an important tool for advancing the protection of children's rights in Ukraine. The European Union has funded several projects and supports the Government in this work. Soon we will start – at the request of the Government – a new joint initiative with UNICEF aimed at preventing a child's separation from its family and supporting the family to become a safe environment for the child.
This dinner is held in honour of tomorrow's inauguration of the "Our Kids" centre. I received the invitation to the inauguration with great pleasure and was delighted to be able to accept it. Let me say a few words about the centre.
Together with the SOS Children's Village - which I visited earlier today - the "Our Kids" centre is a much needed initiative for children in Ukraine. This project, from the first idea to its final realisation today, has taken more than a decade of civic engagement, political will and active support of business circles. It is an example of how civil society projects can unite contrasting and even conflicting political camps for the sake of a common cause.
At the same time it shows what civil engagement can achieve if it brings together:
-the NGO sphere;
-the artistic world; and
-genuine individual involvement.
It shows how the European model of a pluralistic, but cooperative approach to concrete challenges can eventually overcome all divisions and lead to success.
But the success of "Our Kids" shows even more. It shows what Europeans from different countries and from different spheres of life and society can achieve together.
It is a truism to say that the future of Ukraine belongs to its children. What better context could there be in which to speak about the broader political picture and the historic opportunity that is currently in front of us to take a quantitative leap in our relations by the signing of the AA/DCFTA in Vilnius at the end November.
The AA/DCFTA is a choice for a society built on the European values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. It also goes significantly further than classical forms of economic integration, offering improved trade and investment conditions and participation in the European Union's Internal Market - the largest, most prosperous and stable market in the world, covering 500 million consumers and representing about one fifth of the world's GDP. As catalysts for political, economic and social reforms, the AA/DCFTAs will contribute to economic growth, to better integration with world markets and economic modernisation.
Dear friends, allow me to conclude with a topical question.
What future do you want to give to your children? As a father, I know that this is a question that permanently preoccupies all parents and all those who work with children.
In the end, our children will themselves choose what they want to do with their lives. Our role is to give them the means and the circumstances to be able to realise their choices – to lay the foundations for "the house" of tomorrow.
I am sincerely convinced that the Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the European Union – through the AA/DCFTA - would give Ukraine the most solid foundations for its future generations. The signing of the agreement is within reach, but it is for Ukraine to take the remaining steps to make it happen.
Thank you for your attention.