Two decades ago Ukraine regained its independence. A time of great change and expectation, Ukraine was in an excellent position among other former Soviet republics to pursue its European future. The Ukrainian people clearly proved these aspirations in December 1991, when over 90 per cent voted for independence, and a democratic and prosperous Ukraine, free from the Soviet yoke.
The wave of international recognition for Ukraine has provided a powerful background to its external relations. In July 1990, the Declaration on State Sovereignty laid the fundamental principles of Ukraine’s foreign policy, taking into account the challenges the young country would face over its early years of independence.
The active, purposeful and balanced foreign policy aimed to provide favourable conditions for Ukraine’s political, economic and cultural development. At the same time, it had to ensure its participation in solving vibrant global and regional issues that demanded joint action from the international community.
The modern multi-polar system of international relations prevailing at the brink of the millennium, to a great extent shaped the trends in Ukraine’s foreign policy. The rapid development of political landscapes in different parts of the world, the impact of asymmetric growth, globalisation and emerging security challenges – all fundamentally influenced our foreign policy priorities, yet the most immutable of all was European integration.
Coming Back to the European Home
For Ukraine, joining the European Union is not just a foreign policy priority. It should be considered in a much wider framework: from the idea of civilisation to the pragmatic tool of comprehensive internal reforms according to EU standards. Its principal objective is to improve the living standards of Ukrainian citizens and strengthen the EU common values of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and freedom for the media.
We expect to finalise the New Association Agreement with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU by the end of the year, which is the next step on the path from ‘Partnership and Cooperation’ to ‘Political Association and Economic Integration’.
We are grateful for Great Britain’s support for Ukraine’s European integration. The clear-cut European prospect of Ukraine in the upcoming agreement could give a powerful impetus to the advancement of Kyiv on its way to European integration and reforms necessary for the country’s eventual EU membership.
As a key trade partner for our country, economic exchange with the EU is traditionally a third of Ukraine’s total foreign trade turnover. In this regard, our strategic objective is to enhance economic cooperation with the EU through direct access to its domestic market.
This can be achieved by DCFTA’s finalisation, which envisages the liberalisation of trade in goods and services, the free movement of capital and labour and the gradual convergence with the EU regulatory spheres.
Together, Nothing is Impossible
Ukraine profits from developing relations with a number of strategic partners. All are equally important and play a prominent role in foreign policy shaping and priorities. However, among them there are two strategic partners who have the greatest impact on internal development, external relations and national security.
Ukraine adheres to a strategic and balanced policy in its relations with the United States and Russian Federation, to avoid situations in which Ukraine could be seen as a subject of tension between these two countries.
The strategic partnership between Ukraine and the US is based on common values and interests, and in particular, the promotion of democracy, rule of law and freedom of speech, development of market economy, guarantees of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, political and energy security, support for non-proliferation regimes, international peacekeeping and joint counteraction of international terrorism.
For centuries, Ukraine and Russia have had traditional bonds of common history, culture, trade, joint large-scale projects in space industry, aircraft and shipbuilding, nuclear power, oil and gas transportation and other high-tech sectors. Good relations between the two countries is a crucial factor for both European and global stability and security, and a key element of the future system of collective security across Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space, with reliable guarantees for non-allied and nuclear-free states.
For modern Ukraine, the UK is a crucial strategic partner too, and next January we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. A declaration of the strategic nature of Ukrainian-British relations was outlined in a statement following the President of Ukraine’s UK visit in May 2008: as a global international player, member of the G8 and the UN Security Council, Great Britain has always been a model of mature democracy and a developed market economy.
Of course, this family-picture would be incomplete without mentioning Ukraine’s other strategic partners including Poland, China, certain Eastern-European and Baltic States and many other reliable friends.