Ukraine has found a home in the European family of nations

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is welcomed by European commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of their meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 4 June 2019. [Olivier Hoslet/EPA/EFE]

As President Voldymyr Zelenskiy host on Monday (8 July) his first Ukraine-EU summit, a partnership forged in adversity continues to go from strength to strength, writes Alexey Perevezentsev.

Alexey Perevezentsev is State Secretary, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine.

In Kyiv this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet with President Zelenskiy. President Juncker’s term in office will end later this year but he can look on the strengthening of Europe’s partnership with Ukraine on trade and security as one of the major successes of his presidency.

While the faces at the top may change, the underlying principle remains the same. The European Union and Ukraine are committed to each other and are working together to find solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement – and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area – signalled our mutual commitment to shared European values of the rule of law, free and fair trade and democracy. This agreement is Ukraine’s anchor to Europe, and has allowed us to build resilience, strengthen human rights protections, and safeguard our democracy. It has provided the basis for the ambitious political and legal reforms which are transforming Ukraine.

Since 2014, we have made more pro-European reforms than during all previous years of Ukrainian independence. We are re-writing all of our agriculture and industrial standards to bring them in line with the EU, reforming our judicial system to give people confidence in the rule of law and opening up our markets to competition and investment.

Our European neighbours have supported us at every stage, pledging almost €13 billion to aid our reforms. Of course, trade is a two-way street and our success is Europe’s success. The numbers are stark: Just last year, exports from Ukraine to the EU grew by eight per cent while EU exports of goods to Ukraine rose by 9.3%. In services, exports to the EU increased by 13%, and the EU’s exports to Ukraine swelled by substantial 22.6%.

Overall, Ukraine had a trade deficit with the EU of €4.2 billion and the EU now accounts for 42.7% of our exports and 40.6% of our imports – making it Ukraine’s largest trading partner.

Despite the commitment and good will on both sides, there are always issues arising from trade agreements. In our case, imports of poultry meat have caused concern among our partners who wish to preserve the delicate balance which exists in this market. Yet this demonstrates the strength of our partnership. Understanding on both sides and willingness to find a compromise has produced a sensible agreement which is currently being considered by the Council of the European Union.

This agreement can ensure free and fair trade. It guarantees a stable and predictable trading environment for poultry meat between the EU and Ukraine. It protects EU farmers from further increases of imports of poultry cuts from Ukraine and recognises the legitimate expectations of Ukrainian producers to export poultry cuts to the EU, meeting the high health, food safety and welfare standards to which European producers are held. The fact that the two sides have come to an understanding signals our mutual commitment and reflects Ukraine’s desire to step up the pace of much-needed reforms.

Ukraine has found a home in the European family of nations, and the rules-based system which underpins our mutually beneficial trading relations.

When Presidents Zelenskiy and Juncker meet on Monday, it marks a new chapter in EU-Ukraine relations. They can look forward with confidence, knowing this partnership is well-founded and working for both sides.

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