EU: Ukraine should make further progress in reforming judiciary

The country has ambition to approximate its policies and legislation with the European Green Deal

Photo: EU Denys Shmyhal, Josep Borrell and Olivér Várhelyi (L-R) during the press conference following the 7th Association Council meeting.

The 7th Association Council between the EU and Ukraine, held in Brussels on Thursday, reaffirmed its continued commitment to strengthening the political links and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union on the basis of the Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and to the common values enshrined in it.

The meeting was co-chaired by Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Denys Shmyhal, PM of Ukraine.

The partnership with Ukraine is one of the most strategically important that we have around the world, it reflects the wide range of areas of our cooperation, as well as the frequency of our exchanges, HR Borrell stressed during the press conference after the event.

He also said that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is the most wide-reaching agreement that the EU has with any of its partners.

HR Borrell underlined that the overall financial assistance to Ukraine provided by the EU since 2014 is €16bn and that the Union is already helping Ukraine gain access to vaccines through COVAX and a vaccine sharing mechanism at the EU level.

I reassured the Prime Minister of the European Union’s unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, Borrell also said.

Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement explained that following the outbreak of the pandemic, the EU has mobilised swiftly in direct support €190m to Ukraine and also provided €1.2bn macro-financial assistance to help the country to cope with the economic crisis, of which €600m are already disbursed and the second tranche will come still this year.

The Neighbourhood Commissioner detailed that the COVAX initiative should be able to deliver 117,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to Ukraine and “we are also looking at some additional vaccines coming from the AstraZeneca company”.

The EU is launching an additional €40m project together with the WHO for supporting Eastern partner countries, including Ukraine. Commissioner Várhelyi specified that this money will be used to organise and create the infrastructure for the vaccination, “necessary for actually implementing and jabbing the people”.

Talking on the reforms, the Commissioner said that Ukraine continue to take a number of very important steps across the board, “but we need to see further progress” in particular on the reform of judiciary and the fight against the corruption.

On national minorities, the EU reiterated the need for Ukraine to ensure the respect for their rights and to launch a substantive dialogue with representatives of minorities.

According to Commissioner Várhelyi, the EU expects that the Law on National Minorities which is under preparation will address all open issues of previous legislation on state language and education.

In light of threats or actions to representatives of national minorities we also expect the authorities to duly address them, but we got confirmation from the Prime Minister that they are committed to protect the minorities, the Commissioner asserted.

The Association Council underlined the need for full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides and Russia's responsibility in this regard was stressed.

Both sides have agreed to continue to enhance the sectorial cooperation, especially when it comes to digital and telecommunications.

Concerning the cooperation on climate and environment the work is focused on how the European green deal can be extended to Ukraine. The ambition of Ukraine to approximate its policies and legislation with the Europe’s flagship initiative was discussed between EC Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and PM Shmyhal.

In focus were topics of shared interest such as energy efficiency, hydrogen, coal regions in transition, industry alliances and climate governance architecture.

The EU is ready to take forward the work on digital and on mutual recognition of electronic trust services. To support public administration reform in Ukraine, a project with the College of Europe Natolin to train civil servants in European studies has just been launched.

Both sides agreed on the importance of continued cooperation on integration of Ukraine’s energy markets and energy systems with the EU energy market.

The EU and Ukraine wish as well to intensify cooperation in the field of critical raw materials and batteries, with the view to launch a strategic partnership. The country participates in the European Raw Materials Alliance and the European Battery Alliance.

The participants agreed on the need for Kiev to step up efforts on strengthening the rule of law and to ensure the independent and effective operation of the anti-corruption institutions.

At this Association Council the EU again recalled the importance of freedom of expression and the independence and pluralism of the media, including the important role played by the independent public service broadcasting. 

It also recognised Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself given the scale of disinformation campaigns affecting the country, but asserted that “any measures taken should not come at the expense of freedom of media and should be proportional to the aim”.

Ukraine should swiftly and thoroughly investigate attacks against civil society activists and journalists and ensure that the instigators and perpetrators are brought to justice.

 

 

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