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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Remarks by President Barroso following the meeting between the European Commission and the Ukrainian Government
Brussels, 13 May 2014
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, let me thank the Prime Minister for coming here to Brussels. I would like to thank you for taking the time, in the difficult circumstances facing your country, to come with your government to meet the European Commission here in Brussels. Ukraine can count on the European Union, now and in the future.
And indeed, our meeting was a very successful one. It was an unprecedented one - it is the first time the European Commission is meeting with another government outside of the European Union that has an association agreement with us. And I think we can say there was a great convergence and the spirit was really friendly and constructive.
The situation we are seeing in Ukraine is, of course, of the greatest concern. First of all, for the Ukrainian people, but I believe it is also the greatest challenge to Europe's security since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It is therefore critically important that we stop the spiral of political and security escalation which we have seen over recent weeks. We need to build on the diplomatic efforts agreed in the Geneva statement and continued by the OSCE.
The so called referendum held in Ukraine's Eastern regions is illegitimate and illegal. We will not recognise its outcome. The rights of national minorities and all persons need to be respected and uphold, but in the framework of a united and unitarian Ukrainian state.
I have made clear to Prime Minister Yatseniuk that we support all efforts made by the Ukrainian government to promote a broad based and inclusive national dialogue with all regions, in particular on the issue of constitutional reform.
The Ukrainian system of government, the election of the next President of Ukraine and agreements with third countries are decisions for the Ukrainian people to freely decide, without external interference.
The doctrine of limited sovereignty should belong to history books. And history belongs to those that embrace the future, not to those who try to hijack it.
From the very beginning our policy regarding the crisis in Ukraine had a very important central objective: to support a viable, sovereign state of the Republic of Ukraine; to support a democratic, stable, united and prosperous country. This is our first goal looking to the response to the crisis.
Our joint meeting today was therefore part of our continued support to this stable, sovereign, democratic and peaceful Ukraine.
We are acting like never before to deliver short, medium and long term support measures worth €11 billion – measures that I have presented to you here in early March.
Today, we have gone through this package and our joint European Agenda for Reform in detail and identified ways to support the political, economic and financial stability of Ukraine.
• The new “State Building Contract” programme I just signed with the Prime Minister, worth €355 million, plus €10 million to support civil society, will help the government of Ukraine to address short-term economic stabilisation needs and implement governance reforms in order to promote inclusive socio-economic development.
This “State Building Contract” includes concrete steps towards building transparency and fighting against corruption, and will help to increase the government’s ability to respond to citizens’ demands and needs.
• Another major deliverable of today's meeting was the conclusion of the Memorandum of Assistance to Ukraine that is necessary to give effect to the €1 billion Macro Financial Assistance loan programme. The EU will soon disburse the first package of €600 million of a total amount of €1.6 billion of Macro Financial Assistance.
These two specific actions come on top of a wide range of European Commission's assistance to Ukraine in other areas, such as:
• The elimination of customs duties on goods originating from Ukraine – worth nearly €500 million per year in tariff reductions.
• The signature of the Memorandum of Understanding enabling gas flows from Slovakia to Ukraine which was an important first step to diversify Ukraine’s sources of gas supply. I was present in the signature of this memorandum in Bratislava recently. And the European Commission, as you know, is holding trilateral energy talks with Ukraine and Russia aimed at safeguarding the security of supply and transit of gas to and through Ukraine.
• Another point is the work conducted by the Commission, endorsed yesterday by the Foreign Affairs Council, to give effect to our policy of non-recognition of Crimea's annexation by Russia.
And we are working together on many other areas:
• People-to people contacts, where I am pleased to welcome the recent legislative steps for implementation by Ukraine of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan. I have given Prime Minister Yatseniuk my assurances of support in his efforts to move forward the visa liberalisation process as quickly as possible.
• Aviation, where we expect to sign the EU-Ukraine Common Aviation Area Agreement on 5 June, at the occasion of the next Transport Council.
• Research, where I welcome the intention of Ukraine to be an associated participant in the "Horizon 2020" research programme.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, our focus has been on the support we can give to Ukraine. Let me add a word on the actions of Russia. Our message to Russia is to engage, to implement its part of the Geneva statement, to repeal the mandate of the Federation Council to use force on Ukrainian soil and to act as a responsible stakeholder of our community of nations. Together with the Prime Minister, before the executive-to-executive meeting, we have also analysed the situation there. My opinion is that it is still not too late if Russia wants to work constructively. I believe it is in the interest of everybody in Europe, including Russia, to cease this kind of actions and that we can turn back this page and that we can in fact come to a real de-escalation of this conflict.
Turning back now to the significance of today's meeting.
After the signing in March of the political chapters of our Association Agreement, today's meeting shows the EU and Ukraine are jointly committed to work together towards Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the EU.
In our meeting with the government we saw how important this association is for the Ukrainian authorities and we are doing everything in our competence to speed up the implementation of the agreements already signed and also to conclude the agreements that are on the table.
Closer association between the EU and Ukraine was something we proposed, not imposed, to Ukraine and its people. And we remain committed to conclude the signature procedure of the remaining chapters of the Association Agreement as soon as possible after the Presidential elections on 25 May. We received clear assurances from the Ukrainian side that it is exactly the goal of the Ukrainian authorities.
As I have said in the past this agreement was never an agreement against someone, but for something: for democracy, prosperity and well-being of all the Ukrainian people. And we continue to stand by these goals.
The meeting today was a clear demonstration of our political will. And I really want to thank you very much, Prime Minister, not only for your personal engagement, but also for the very important contribution that your ministers gave to what I consider a very successful and constructive meeting.