Debattartikel av Margot Wallström och Linas Linkevičius i Ukrainska Pravda

Debattartikel av Sveriges utrikesminister Margot Wallström och Litauens utrikesminister Linas Linkevičius i Ukrainska Pravda 17 november.

As we arrive today in Kyiv, almost two years have passed since people took to the streets in Ukraine with legitimate calls for reform and European integration. The subsequent deplorable turn of events is the tale of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and further military aggression against Ukraine.

Lithuania and Sweden have been among the most vocal supporters of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our two countries have been at the forefront in condemning Russia’s violations of international law. What Russia has done in Ukraine poses a challenge that reaches beyond Ukraine’s borders and calls into question the fundamental principle that all nations are entitled to make their own foreign policy choices. Therefore, we argue that EU sanctions against Russia will have to be kept in place until the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored, which includes Ukrainian control over its own, internationally recognised borders. For Russia to put itself back on the path toward improved relations with the rest of Europe, it needs to demonstrate, in a tangible manner, its commitment to European principles and international law.

But Russia’s aggression must not cause us to overlook the bigger picture: Ukraine has launched a reform programme unequalled in scope and ambition since its independence while at the same time facing hostilities and humanitarian suffering. Therefore, we acknowledge the courage and commitment of the Ukrainian leadership. These reforms, first and foremost, serve the benefit of the Ukrainian people – and aim to make Ukraine a successful European democracy. The European Union stands committed to Ukraine’s success.

Important and bold reforms are under way in many key areas, including the energy sector, the system of local government (where decentralisation will bring political decision-making closer to the people and hopefully increase the level of trust among the general public) and the management of public finances. The EU Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area have served as a roadmap and the Eastern Partnership provides a reinforcing framework for our relations. But the implementation of these reforms needs to be accelerated as results are still not being felt by the general public. This is particularly true in the area of anticorruption and the influence of oligarchic structures.

We argue that more efforts are urgently needed in some key areas:  

- The EU’s long standing calls for improved rule of law and a reformed justice sector in Ukraine are part of the framework of the EU-Ukraine relations and important progress has been made by Ukraine. But according to a recent poll, only 5 per cent of Ukrainians trust the court system. This shows that more needs to be done to strengthen the independence, integrity and accountability of the judiciary, including the Prosecutor General’s Office. The judiciary needs to be free from  political interference and corruption. The anticorruption prosecutorneeds to be truly independent and selected in a fair and transparent process. On our part we as the EU should redouble its support of rule of law in Ukraine, including by giving the EU assistance mission for civilian security sector reform, EUAM, more teeth and a broader mandate.

- Ukraine has made important steps towards reducing its energy dependency on Russia and towards a more sustainable energy consumption. But Ukraine continues to use three times more energy per person than the EU average. Greater energy efficiency would enhance both the state budget and national security. The radical reduction of gas subsidies is important, but more is needed to reduce consumption, increase energy efficiency and help consumers influence their consumption patterns. The Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (E5P) is designed to respond to such needs, and together the EU, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Ukraine need to do more to ensure that it delivers results.

- Ukraine has made important head way towards fulfilling the benchmarks for visa freedom. The EU Visa Liberalisation Action Plan for Ukraine contains strict conditions on anti-corruption, migration management and fundamental rights which Ukraine has to meet without exception. Defending all human rights is a vital in this regard, including through the adoption of a labour code that forbids discrimination in work places. On the EU side, we should assist Ukraine in carrying out the required reforms. We should also stand by our commitment to grant visa freedom once technical conditions are met and conditions for well managed and secure mobility are in place, as was the case for Moldova.

- Improved gender equality and strengthening of women’s rights would allow Ukraine to unlock its full social and economic potential. The conflict in the Donbas region has exacerbated the problem of violence against women, and ensuring legal protection of women’s rights is more important than ever. Ukraine has made important progress towards the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women (Istanbul Convention). We look forward to the early ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention by the Ukrainian parliament, which would serve as a role model for the rest of the region. 

Successful reforms require patience and resolve. Ukraine and the EU have embarked on a long journey together, but we remain confident that it will lead us to the modern and rule-based Ukraine that the people taking to the streets two years ago demanded.