Exclusive interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
1: How do you estimate the current status of the process of Ukraine’s European integration?
There have been times when Ukraine-EU relations were rich in compliments, but lacked for substance.
These times are clearly over. Today both sides have embraced the policy of small but tangible steps in relation to each other.
Last December Ukraine and the EU initialed the Agreement on Association. It will build up our relations on the principles of political association and economic integration. It envisages the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. We believe that it will ultimately give Ukraine access to the EU Single Market.
We are also confident that the soonest signing and ratification of this Agreement fully fits within the EU’s strategic interests.
As a matter of paramount importance we see the aspired visa-free regime with the EU.
For majority of Ukrainians it is not the issue whether a Ukrainian representative will become a European Commissioner any time soon.
However, for the vast majority of Ukrainians it is a critical issue, when they no longer have to be exposed to the lengthy process of applying for EU visas and standing in exhausting lines in front of the EU embassies.
Therefore we proceed with the expedient implementation of the Action Plan on visa liberalization. This document has already encouraged wide-ranging domestic reforms in all pertaining spheres, including a better migration control, border security etc.
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Aside from the bilateral dialogue, we are ready to use other tools wherever they comply with our ambitious goal of eventual EU membership. The Eastern Partnership being one of them. However, we see the Eastern Partnership as a part of Ukraine’s European path, and not a part of our “ceiling” vis-à-vis European integration.
2. How much and how have the policy of Ukraine towards NATO changed?
The Law of Ukraine on the Foundations of Domestic and Foreign Policy has formalized a non-bloc status of our state. At the same time, this document reflected our intention to participate in further improvement of the European collective security system and continue constructive partnership with NATO, which remains one of priorities of Ukraine’s foreign policy.
Ukraine welcomes the results of the Chicago Summit that confirmed the Alliance’s leading role in strengthening international stability and security.
As the President of Ukraine emphasized at the Summit, our country fulfills its obligations to develop constructive partnership with NATO and contribute to NATO-led operations.
For instance, the Government of Ukraine took a decision to allocate 500 thousand dollars annually in 2015-2017 to support the Afghan national security forces.
We are also ready to provide our airlift capabilities to transport contingents and cargos from Afghanistan.
Ukraine participates in the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. Additional aviation experts, two officers, will be deployed in that Mission soon.
Besides, we joined NATO-Russia Council counter narcotics project and intend to expand our involvement with it.
We will maintain Ukraine’s participation in other NATO operations. Kosovo remains an important element of regional stability in Europe. Upon the request from NATO Military Committee, we would be ready to additionally deploy one engineering platoon in Kosovo, provided that the security situation in the region does not deteriorate dramatically.
Ukraine supports international efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa. We have started preparing the flagship “Hetman Sagaidachny” for the participation in the NATO operation Ocean Shield in September-October next year. Also, we will expand our participation in the EU’s operation Atalanta and are planning to send a surveillance aircraft An-26 to the operation’s theater in October.
We are grateful for NATO’s readiness to develop cooperation with Ukraine and for the assistance with the implementation of the Annual National Programs, which contribute significantly to domestic reforms process in Ukraine.
I cannot but mention the importance of non-military cooperation with NATO. We continue successfully our dialogue with the Alliance on science, environmental protection, social adaptation of the retired officers, air situation data exchange and other subjects. Ukraine ranks second among all the partners of the Alliance in terms of quantity of projects being developed in the framework of NATO’s programme “Science for Peace and Security”.
As you can see, the non-bloc status of Ukraine has opened a new and very productive page in Ukraine-NATO relations. Today we cooperate very effectively in all fields. Our cooperation turned to be more result-oriented and mutually beneficial. We are ready to explore new spheres of bilateral interaction within the framework of Ukraine-NATO constructive partnership.
3. This year Ukraine chairs the CEI. How do you estimate the results of the Session of the Heads of Foreign Ministries of the CEI Member States held in Trieste?
Ukraine has a keen interest and plays an active role in developing multilateral cooperation within the framework of the Central European Initiative.
In my opinion the CEI has become an important player in prompting economic and social integration process in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. It helps fostering cohesion and stability in the region.
I believe that after the latest wave of the EU enlargement a special attention should be paid to addressing the needs of the non-EU Member States within the CEI.
In this particular regard the June 2012 meeting of the CEI Foreign Ministers in Trieste became a valuable source of information that would help all non-EU Member States in their attempts to join the European Union.
The Trieste meeting was yet another proof of the CEI’s importance as a regional political forum in the context of European integration processes in the region, sharing common values and European standards, strengthening of regional ties, as well as expanding economic and investment cooperation.
We encourage further enhancement of cooperation in different spheres between the CEI counties – EU member states and yet non-EU member states. I believe that the CEI creates excellent opportunities for making EU membership perspective much closer for those countries who aspire for it.
4. What is the current line of Kyiv within the solution of Transnistria issue and how does it differ from the line of Moscow and Bucharest?
Ukraine is committed to a peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict by developing a special, reliably guaranteed status for Transnistria, based on respect for sovereignty and strict adherence to the principle of territorial integrity of Moldova.
We welcome the steps being taken by the parties with the assistance of international mediators and observers in the form of “5+2” negotiation team, namely Ukraine, Russia, the OSCE, the EU and the USA plus Moldova and Transnistrian region.
Today, we can see progress in the Transnistrian conflict settlement. After certain stalemate in 2006 negotiations in the format "5 + 2" have already been resumed.
Besides that, on Ukraine’s initiative, on January 27 in Odessa the first ever meeting between Moldova’s Prime Minister Mr. Filat and the Head of Transnistrian region Mr. Shevchuk took place. Their continued dialogue has already led to the decision to restart freight rail traffic through Transnistria.
During Ukraine’s OSCE Presidency in 2013, we intend to exert every effort to encourage further concerted efforts by the 5+2 negotiation team to achieve tangible progress in the Transnistrian settlement, which is extremely important for stability and security of the European continent.