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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article5 September 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Remarks by Commissioner Várhelyi at the press conference with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Denys Shmyhal, Ukrainian PM following the 8th meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Council

EU-Ukraine Association Council

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Thank you very much. I also want to welcome Prime Minister Shmyhal.

First, we need to applaud the resilience of the people of Ukraine and the resistance the people of Ukraine and its state are showing. Not only that, but the state continues to function under the huge pressure the war is putting Ukraine under.

We have, I think covered many, many topics - all of them have been listed - let me just grab a few for you. We are pleased, of course, first of all, that Ukraine now is an EU candidate country. This has created already a positive momentum we see in the country for advancing the reforms, despite all the challenges existing. And it is therefore very important that Ukraine has taken a keen interest in this, but also that it pursues this keen interest throughout the process.

Of course, the progress of Ukraine towards the EU will require time and serious efforts. At this stage we recommend Ukraine to focus on the implementation of the seven steps foreseen in our Opinion and confirmed by the European Council, meaning, strengthening the rule of law, fight against corruption and money-laundering as well as ensuring the rights of persons belonging to national minorities as key elements in this context. Of course, needless to say that you can count on our support and our engagement and of course, we are ready to follow this very, very closely with our friends in Kyiv, and to help the country move forward on its European path.

As the HRVP already mentioned, our bilateral agenda has advanced significantly since the last Association Council despite the war and Russian aggression against Ukraine.

For example, on trade relations, earlier this year, the EU has taken an unprecedented decision by adopting full liberalisation of all outstanding duties under the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area [DCFTA]. Moreover, the application of safeguard and anti-dumping measures on imports of Ukrainian steel has also been suspended. We expect these measures to boost the existing trade flows from Ukraine to the EU.

Ukraine’s association to the Digital Europe Programme is another good example where strong bilateral cooperation and an important step in integrating Ukraine into the EU Digital Single Market has been made.

We have also discussed Ukraine's ongoing engagement in implementing its commitments related to the telecommunication services sector, which, if fully met, can lead to an internal market treatment for this sector. I would also particularly like to mention the roaming issue which was also picked up by the Prime Minister where we are now exploring legally sound options for associating Ukraine fully within our roaming area to enjoy the same lowered roaming tariffs between the EU and Ukraine. Of course, not only for the markets, but also for the people to be able to maintain contact.

We have also recalled the signature earlier this summer of the temporary road transport agreement, which helps to ease the difficult situation in the transport sector.

Of course, all these steps put together gradually and surely bring our economies and societies even closer together.

Today, we have also discussed our ongoing support to Ukraine which now is at EUR 9.5 billion since the start of the war by Russia. Ukraine has urgent short-term financial needs, and we are working hard to advance as quickly as possible on the disbursement of the remaining assistance of the EUR 9 billion macro-financial assistance decided by the European Council.

I am also pleased that today we have been able to sign together with the government of Ukraine a Budget Support programme of EUR 500 million in grants, and this should help the people of Ukraine when it comes to the key challenge of housing, re-starting education and schools, and of course also help the internally displaced and the refugees in Ukraine. I do hope that with this we are also contributing in a significant way to consolidate the agriculture sector in Ukraine.

In addition to the urgent needs, of course we have discussed longer term perspectives, namely the recovery and reconstruction after the war, and we are committed to support these efforts of Ukraine and we are ready to co-lead with the Ukrainian authorities the Reconstruction Platform – while of course counting on the support of our partners as donors to come around and contribute to this effort.

In conclusion, I want to of course reiterate, as it was already done by the HRVP, our unwavering support to the sovereign and independent Ukraine. We support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and it is very clear that Russia needs to respect international law and it has to immediately stop all aggression and return to its borders.

Our objective is to help Ukraine emerge stronger and more resilient from the devastation of this invasion. Ukraine’s future is in the EU.

Thank you.