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Europe Between Two Wars: EU foreign policy in 2023

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Thank you very much Mr President, dear Volodymyr,

Thank you for your words and thank you for welcoming me for the second time now here in Kyiv. I am deeply touched and humbled by the strength and the resilience of the Ukrainian people. Two months after my first visit, we see that the brutal fighting continues in the east and in the south. But I must say that it is impressive to see how strong strongly and courageously the Ukrainians are defending their country in these very difficult conditions. And, dear Volodymyr, we are mourning with you, we share the tears with you about the loss of lives. But I also see, here in Kyiv, that life is springing back. I see that people are clearing the rubbles, you are building again the bridges, people are returning from abroad, they are coming back to the city – and this is a good sign.

Today, indeed, I am here to have a working session with you. There were many topics where we took stock of where we stand. First, I want to report on our joint work on the reconstruction. Together, we are working on a reconstruction platform. It is amazing to see that there is an enormous will outside Ukraine to support the reconstruction – be it the Member States, be it other friends and partners of Ukraine, but also the international financial institutions. And of course, the business community is very interested in supporting Ukraine for the reconstruction. What we want to do together with that platform is to create a common direction of travel, have a very clear roadmap on how to deliver and how to orchestrate this reconstruction, with full transparency, full accountability, to help Ukraine rise from the ashes. This should be a process that is fully owned by Ukraine, of course. We have a long track record of experience how to manage those situations, and mainly how to manage the investment with reforms. We share the same objectives: We want to channel the investments and deliver reforms so that we improve the lives of Ukrainians; we rebuild Ukraine; we make Ukraine attractive for investors, a conducive environment for the business sector; and, of course, support Ukraine in pursuing its European path. This is so important to have the combination of reform and investment.

Of course, Ukraine was already on a good track before the horrible and atrocious invasion by Russia. Ukraine is a solid, well-grounded parliamentary presidential democracy. It has robust and well-anchored institutions, a functioning administration at all levels. I think that it pays off now that you did the reform on decentralisation. We see it on a daily basis in the work with the Commission that, at all levels, the administration is functioning, despite the war. So there is a resilient administration that is fully capable to function for the country, under incredible circumstances. We see a country that is highly digitised. I told you already my high respect for the level of digitalisation you have. It helps during this war. It is a country where we have already the Association Agreement, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. And we know that, as you have said, more needs to be done.

Do get me right, Ukraine is at war. So your focus, and our support, is in overcoming this atrocious and horrible war. But we want to look further. And, with the reconstruction, we also want to look forward what needs to be done next. For example, you have done a lot in strengthening the rule of law, but there still needs to be reforms implemented, to fight corruption for example, or to modernise the administration, which will also help attract investors. Again, the institutions are in place, the reform programme that you have undergone in the last years pays off now. Now, we need results. And we have been discussing all these different topics in our working session.

As you know, the Commission is currently preparing the recommendations – its so-called opinion – for the EU Member States. We have been working day and night on this assessment. And I promised you in April, dear Volodymyr, that we will be working tirelessly on it. So the discussions today will enable us to finalise our assessment by the end of next week. The path is known, it is a merit-based path forward. It is a path where, I must say, I really appreciate the enormous efforts and the determination of Ukraine in this process. The people of Ukraine have proven incredible strength, motivation and stamina. So I am deeply convinced that we will together, and you will overcome this horrible and atrocious war. We will and you will rebuild this beautiful country and modernise Ukraine. And I just want to say that we will be by your side. Photo by European Parliament from EU, Wikimedia commons. 

deneme