MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Ukraine 2021 I Politics & Diplomacy I Leader
BIOGRAPHY Born in 1981, he graduated with honour from the Institute of International Relations, Taras Shevchenko University (Kyiv, Ukraine), where he studied international law. In 2006, he obtained Ph.D. in Law. From August 2019 to March 2020, he served as Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine and he is at his current position since March 04, 2020.
“EUROPE CANNOT BE COMPLETE WITHOUT UKRAINE. UKRAINE CANNOT BE COMPLETE WITHOUT EUROPE.”
A lot has changed in these past two years. We have faced new challenges, globally and in our region, new problems and threats, but we have also re-discovered solidarity, formed new alliances, developed new strategies and shaped new foreign policy approaches to streamline our European integration. Not only the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world. Our region undergoes, once again, a fundamental transformation. Balances shift and - spoiler - we work hard to shift them in our favour. The Eastern Partnership is not what it used to be. I think it has become a well-established fact. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war. Belarus slid away from the European path into Putin’s claws. Russia’s attempts to use natural gas as a weapon significantly intensified.
Not only the Eastern Partnership, but the entire so-called “Post-Soviet Space” is no longer what it used to be. Actually, I think it will be fair to say that there is no such thing as “Post-Soviet Space” anymore. Trajectories of this region’s countries have been way too different for way too long. These past two years have shown that the civilizational cleavages between groups of the countries are getting deeper. There is literally little reason to see the region through a single lens. International affairs have entered a period of fragmentation and unfortunately antagonism. This period will be over one day. Once we are out of shifting sands, traditional alliances will be reshaped. And as we all know, crises bring not only threats, but also opportunities.
We have clearly seen these challenges coming and unfolding and wasted no time to take decisive, bold and proactive moves to mitigate them and confidently navigate our European and Euro-Atlantic course through the muddy waters of change. In these past two years, Ukraine became an Enhanced opportunities partner of NATO. We have created three new regional alliances: the Lublin Triangle with Poland and Lithuania, Associated Trio with Georgia and Moldova, Quadriga with Turkey, Crimea platform with 46 member states and international organizations. Ukraine has signed four declarations on European perspective with EU states and three more are coming soon.
“UKRAINE AND THE EU BECAME CLOSE AND IMPORTANT TRADE PARTNERS TO EACH OTHER AND
ARE WORKING CLOSELY TOGETHER TO BOOST FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE DEEP AND COMPREHENSIVE FREE TRADE AREA.”
These are not just separate diplomatic initiatives. All of them are part of a new, ambitious and mature foreign policy. Let me remind everyone that this year we adopted, for the first time in 30 years of independence, the Foreign Policy Strategy of Ukraine. Regional alliances and Ukraine’s proactive policy in the Baltic-Black Sea region are reflected in this document. This strategy is firmly navigating Ukraine to reach our objectives even in the current circumstances of global instability, regional challenges and as I have already mentioned international antagonism which paralyzes large established blocks of states.
Flexible supplementary regional alliances are a new trend in international affairs.
With the Lublin Triangle, Associated Trio, Quadriga and the Crimea Platform Ukraine is leading, not just following this trend. Those alliances are more effective than the established old ones, because they unite like-minded states around very practical tasks and steps in their respective regions. When members of an alliance share the same vision of the past, present and the future, it allows them to take swift decisions and act efficiently where large entities would have needed months to deliberate and overcome internal disagreements. And in many cases they unfortunately fail to achieve results.
UKRAINE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
The events of the past two years forced us to step out of our comfort zone and urgently focus on resilience. Be it countering Russian aggression and its hybrid warfare in Europe, gas price manipulation, fighting the pandemic, natural disasters or jointly rescuing EU and Ukrainian citizens in the conflict zones. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank our EU partners for their firm support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including implementation of the non-recognition policy of the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia. Ukraine highly appreciates the EU’s firm position on sanctions against Russia in response to its aggression against Ukraine. We also commend the EU for its resolute support for the Crimea Platform and participation in the Platform’s inaugural summit this year.The Association Agreement with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova became the most ambitious treaties the EU has ever concluded with an international partner. Moreover, today we have come to the state of self-reflection – whether the goals of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement are met, what has to be fine-tuned. We are considering how to further raise the ambitions of our integration in order to develop the full potential of our association.
The EU has never done such an exercise with any other partner country. Ukraine goes side by side with the EU in its foreign and security policy, being a reliable partner of the Union on the international fora and an important contributor of European security.
Ukraine and the EU became close and important trade partners to each other and are working closely together to boost further development of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Next important step is the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA Agreement) which will create new opportunities for our businesses. We are interested in making more commitments in the new priority areas of the EU, such as the European Green Deal, the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union. We are not just willing to align with these ambitious policies, we are ready to contribute to their successful implementation along with the EU Member States.
Next big thing is green hydrogen. The EU defined Ukraine as a priority partner in supplying this new type of energy to the European consumers. We have resources, the political will and the ambition to make Ukraine a key green hydrogen supplier to the EU. First projects are already launched and the optimistic scenario is that by 2024 we will be able to launch first export supplies. Green hydrogen is a matter of strategy. We are not afraid of stepping forward into an uncharted territory. As I said earlier, one word that describes President Zelenskyi’s foreign policy is “ambition”. President sets out very ambitious goals, but this is the only way to reach big ambitious results.
At the 23rd Ukraine-EU Summit we reached some far-looking agreements, out of which I would particularly mention our gradual integration into the EU Single Market. This didn’t seem feasible just a year ago. I’m happy to congratulate all of us on the signature of the Common aviation area agreement. The developments I mentioned mean that our ambitious goals are absolutely reachable if we work hard here in Ukraine, but also if the European Union approaches relations with Ukraine in a constructive and ambitious manner. There have always been many sceptics of Ukraine’s European success - those internally and externally. They doubted the signing of the Association Agreement, the visa-free, the Common aviation area and so on. They always doubt. But we have no doubts, we understand where we are heading, where we are taking our country and we are doing it. Their skepticism has only mobilised our efforts and pushed us to be more proactive and forward-looking. We have always believed in our cause and we will continue to believe in it.
Europe cannot be complete without Ukraine. Ukraine cannot be complete without Europe. Ukrainian identity is part of the mosaic of European identities. I am happy that more and more European nations and their leaders clearly perceive Ukraine as one of them. We need a clear signal that our ambitions matter, that our European aspirations are welcome, that our reforms are systemic in a sense that they contribute to the pan-european legal order. The goal of EU membership is sealed in our Constitution and this process is irreversible. We understand that every next wave of the EU enlargement gets more demanding and time consuming. We are implementing ambitious reforms under increasingly challenging circumstances. But any commitment needs a goal.
Our key expectation from the European Union in this regard is to grant Ukraine the European perspective. This decision would require simply a political will of the EU, with no institutional commitments, but it will play a very significant role. Firstly, a certain EU perspective will be a huge motivating and transformational force for Ukraine. Secondly, it will bring a lot of certainty to our part of Europe. This part of Europe shares European values and considers itself to be an eventual part of the European family and the EU has to act actively and ambitiously here to avoid the situation where the other forces will put their feet on this land. Thirdly, it will put an end to the Kremlin's senseless attempts to revert the European choice of Ukraine and to convince Ukrainians that the EU does not need them.
** Edited from Keynote speech given at the 4th Association Exchange Forum in Kyiv on 21 October 2021