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Remarks by President Charles Michel at the press conference following his meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Raad, gepubliceerd op woensdag 3 maart 2021.

I would like to thank you, President Zelenskyy, for your invitation and for your warm welcome here in Ukraine. I have come here with a clear message for you and for the people of Ukraine: there is no Europe without Ukraine. We share common values: democracy, rule of law, respect for international law, and human rights. The EU is Ukraine’s most reliable partner.

We also share today’s most urgent challenge - tackling COVID-19. During our discussion today, I reaffirmed the European Union's solidarity with the Ukrainian people in the face of COVID-19. I also visited a vaccination centre that supports Ukraine’s fight against the pandemic. It is our strong commitment to stand together in these difficult times. The EU has already provided 190 million euro for Ukraine to fight COVID along with 1.2 billion euro Macro-Financial Assistance. And we are helping Ukraine gain access to COVID vaccines. The COVAX Facility, massively supported by the EU, has allocated a significant amount of vaccines to Ukraine. I will personally engage to speed up the delivery.

Yesterday we visited the contact line and I saw with my own eyes the devastating impact of a nearly seven-year conflict on the security situation and on people´s lives. It’s a tragedy that people continue to die in this war on the European continent in 2021. I want to reaffirm the EU’s unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, within its internationally recognised borders.

The full implementation of the Minsk agreements is essential. It is the way forward to peace and we will continue to fully support the diplomatic efforts to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continue to back the conflict resolution efforts taken by you, Mr President. We expect Russia to reciprocate Ukraine’s constructive spirit. Russia is not a mediator. It’s a party to this conflict. Any country must be free to choose its own course without foreign interference. Ukraine has freely chosen its own Euro-Atlantic course.

We remain committed to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is the most ambitious, comprehensive agreement the EU has with another country. As part of this Agreement, Ukraine has agreed to serious commitments to sweeping reforms.

The EU is now Ukraine’s main export market. And thousands of Ukrainian companies benefit from the opportunity to export to the EU. We will continue to develop our sectoral cooperation, including through support to the digital economy and the green agenda.

Ukraine has made significant progress in reforms during these years, and we value President Zelenskyy´s personal commitment to push forward these reforms. The EU has provided unprecedented support to Ukraine and its reform process - 16 billion euro since 2014. And we will continue to support your efforts. It is essential to continue the fight against corruption, and to continue other reforms at full speed.

The EU stands with you, President Zelenskyy, in restoring the Ukrainian people´s trust in your judicial system and anti-corruption agenda. This is the expectation of the Ukrainian people, who called for change in the Maidan.

This moment of reflection greatly moved me, and I remembered what I felt when I saw, in the media, the cynicism of those who murdered citizens who stood up for freedom and dignity.

The inscription on this memorial to the freedom and dignity of Ukrainians reflects the emotion I feel, standing with you today to mark the strong and close bond between the European Union and Ukraine. This emotion must also be a driving force to promote the values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

Yes, President Zelenskyy, we will continue to work closely together. The next meetings have been arranged, and we want to support your initiative for a Crimea Platform summit, to be held in August.

We also want to be ready, this year, for the next summit between Ukraine and the European Union. Let me reassure you that we want to stand with you firmly, shoulder to shoulder, with you, since we share the same values of freedom, democracy and respect for the rule of law, and we believe that together we are stronger.

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