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Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and President Zelensky following the EU-Ukraine Summit

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 12 oktober 2021.

Thank you very much Mr President, cher Charles, dear Volodymyr,

We have come as friends and as partners because we know that we share the same history, we share the same values, being convinced of the rule of law as our foundation, and I think we share the same destiny as one European family. And that is how friends and partners work together. Here, a partnership that is beneficial to you as well as it is to us. Ukraine can be assured of our steadfast support and commitment to its independence, its sovereignty and its territorial integrity. We continue to back the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, fully. We commend Ukraine for its efforts. We support the position of President Zelensky's government, fully. And we call on Russia to assume its responsibility as a party to the conflict.

As a follow-up to the Crimea platform, we have sent our own personnel to Southeastern Ukraine,

to get an own picture of it, so that they can see how to best address the needs of the communities affected by the conflict. With immediate aid, of course, but also with investments for the future: healthcare, infrastructure, connectivity, civil society. We will soon fund, for example, school buses, so that the children that are living at the contact line in East Ukraine can simply go to class. Very simple means but an enormous effect for the better in the life of people there.

Another issue on which we support Ukraine entirely is energy security. I understand your concerns, Ukraine's concerns, about gas supplies in view of much lower gas deliveries from Gazprom. This is an issue, not only for this winter but also for the winters to come. And therefore, the Commission, together with Ukrainian experts, is exploring right now different scenarios to secure sufficient supply for Ukraine. We will also work closely with you, with Ukraine, in order to increase gas supply capacity coming from Member States of the European Union. And this also includes the option of working on arrangements to reverse the flow of an additional gas pipeline from Slovakia. And we are exploring together the possibilities of common storage where there is a lot of room for manoeuvre for us, a lot of room to explore for a very beneficial cooperation.

In addition, as we have repeatedly stressed, the 2019 Gas Directive, the third Energy Package, fully applies to Nord Stream 2. For the Commission, what is clear is that Ukraine remains and must remain a reliable transit country. And there were other topics that we have been discussing, for example that Ukraine can also do things to improve its situation and its energy independence. As the best energy is the energy you do not use. Energy efficiency is a game changer, we have been discussing that. By improving its level of energy efficiency to that of its closest EU neighbours, Ukraine, if we are successful in that, would no longer need to import any kind of gas, would be independent and self-sufficient.

Now turning to our bilateral relationship, I am very glad to see the progress we are making in a number of key sectors of cooperation. Today's Summit showed it again with three new, important Agreements. We have just witnessed the signature of the Civil Aviation Area Agreement, Horizon Europe and Creative Europe. These Agreements crown a successful year when it comes to EU-Ukraine sectoral cooperation.

Just this past year, we have stepped up our cooperation on raw materials, our dialogue on cybersecurity, and on the green transition, via our high-level dialogue on the Green Deal.

I also want to congratulate Ukraine on being among the first countries outside the European Union to connect to the EU Digital COVID Certificate system. This is an enormous success, and congratulations on that. You were very fast. But you are excellent in the digital sector, so it was to be expected.

All these different initiatives have one common purpose: The European Union and Ukraine growing closer as partners, with a deeper integration of our economies. So how can we take our partnership to the next level? First, by Ukraine staying focused on implementing reforms. Ukraine has gone a long way and I want to commend you, President Zelensky, dear Volodymyr, on that. I want to commend you on your leadership and your courage. I know how difficult it can be to push through reforms in the face of vested interests. So I want to clearly state that we will continue supporting Ukraine's efforts to see through major reforms. This entails reform of the judiciary, including the reform of the Constitutional Court as well as fighting corruption, and curbing the influence of oligarchs. It is impressive, the way forward that you have chosen and the motivation and the courage with which you are pushing forward the necessary reforms with your government.

My second point is: How can we improve our cooperation and take it to the next level? By tapping into the potential of the Association Agreement. It still has a lot to offer - we have been discussing that - for example in the digital area. Ukraine is very advanced in that field - we have been talking about that - and we can do more together. For example, by implementing the EU's 5G toolbox, Ukraine will move closer to the EU Single Market. Likewise, I know that there is high interest in deepening our cooperation in fighting disinformation. So we are ready to continue supporting your strategic communication capacities against foreign interferences. And I think we can learn a lot from each other and join forces in that field. Finally, let me emphasise that the European Union is also willing to step up efforts to increase trade, investment and economic integration between us. Our Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement continues to be a cornerstone of our relationship.

A lot has been done but I want us to remain ambitious, so that both sides can reap the benefits. So let us explore what we can do more, together. And this is not just about the relations between our governments and our administrations, it is at least as much about strengthening Ukrainian civil society.

Thank you so much.


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