[Check against delivery!]
Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We had a very constructive meeting. I know that diplomats are always saying that they had a constructive meeting when they were strongly disagreeing, but this time we had an exchange of views which was a very consensual one.
We were discussing of course – because this is a matter of highest concern to me – the situation in Eastern Ukraine, and the Prime Minister explained to me what is happening on the ground.
But the other part of our conversation was dealing with the disbursement of the second tranche to Ukraine. And as I have to say that Ukraine is realising in the last two or three years reforms of a greater magnitude than those which were realised during the 20 years before, and as the Ukrainian government is introducing the draft bill on the wood ban to Parliament, this in my eyes is a sufficient condition to disburse the EUR 600 million Ukrainians are waiting for.
This will be done in the next coming weeks, because I do think that after having watched the reform effort of Ukraine, Ukrainians have the right to see something in return. And the first decision we have taken this morning together – but I had taken it yesterday evening – is that we have to disburse the second tranche in the next coming weeks.
We are supporting Ukraine, not only in its conflict with Russia, but more generally. We are in favour of having everyone – not only the neighbours, but mainly the neighbours – respecting the Ukrainian sovereignty. We have a strategic partnership with Ukraine and our future relations will develop along these lines.
I was very pleased for having had the second meeting, I have to say, with the Ukrainian Prime Minister, who is reminding me of myself – because when I was young, I organised the first summit between the European Union and Ukraine. That was on 5 September 1997. I had exactly his age, so this is the age where young men can develop very ambitious expectations.
And I forgot to tell you that, of course, we were discussing the issue of visa liberalisation: this will happen before summer.