Thank you, Prime Minister, it is a pleasure and honour to be in Kyiv again - so let me begin by thanking you for your hospitality, your friendship and our excellent cooperation.
Ukraine is a priority partner for the European Union and today, we are taking our partnership to the next level.
The idea to expand our cooperation into the area of critical raw materials and batteries was born last October. Today, some nine months later, we are signing a Memorandum of Understanding - the first concrete step in turning that ambition into reality.
This is impressive, especially as Ukraine continues to face a daunting array of challenges, not to mention the security situation at its eastern border and in illegally-annexed Crimea.
I am convinced that this new chapter in EU-Ukraine cooperation will not only strengthen our political bond, but will also bring a wide range of opportunities for European and Ukrainian industry - and ultimately help create and preserve local jobs in future-oriented areas, intrinsically linked to the ongoing green and digital transitions.
As we indeed move towards climate-neutral and digital societies, many key sectors - such as renewables, electronics, transport, aerospace and defence - will depend on a reliable and sustainable supply of raw materials at competitive costs.
Batteries, for their part, are a holy grail of electric mobility and renewable energy storage.
Ukraine is well placed to become a strong player in critical raw materials and batteries - even poised to lead in these fields within the Eastern Partnership and the Energy Community.
So let me give you a few examples of what today's landmark Memorandum and Roadmap mean in practice.
First, Ukraine is set to align its regulatory mining framework to that of the EU, committing to the highest environmental, social and governance standards.
Second, we will kick-start our cooperation in the area of primary and secondary raw materials in Ukraine by supporting modernisation of necessary technologies; paving the way for a circular economy approach; and identifying business-to-business opportunities for the battery value chain on both sides.
In this context, I am glad to welcome the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology as the newest member of the European Raw Materials Alliance and the European Battery Alliance - both of which act as a driving force behind many projects emerging in the EU.
Third, we will put our money where our mouth is. This year, the EU is allocating an additional 750,000 euros in technical assistance - a figure set to increase next year.
Moreover, joint EU-Ukraine projects will be able to apply directly for funding under Horizon Europe, the biggest research and innovation programme of its kind.
And we will also encourage the greater involvement of the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in many of these efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we succeed, this will help us exploit the full potential of our Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The DCFTA has boosted EU-Ukraine trade by more than 50 percent since it came into force, and I encourage everyone to make the most of today's additional impetus.
Again, if we succeed, this will also go a long way towards boosting the resilience of both Ukraine and Europe - especially as we seek to bounce forward and emerge stronger from the current pandemic that has taken a heavy toll on our economies and societies.
Now to conclude, let me thank you, Prime Minister, as well as President Zelenskyy, for your personal commitment and instrumental role in setting this positive agenda in our mutual relations. Thank you for your truly European spirit.