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Strengthening Ukraine's economy through EU integration and reforms

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Kievs handelshögskola 11 mars 2015
Det talade ordet gäller.

First of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to visit Kyiv and the Kyiv School of Economics.
Sweden has been a supporter of this school for a long-time, and its an honor to finally visit here together with my distinguished colleague Mr. Aivaras Abromavicius.

Being here in Kyiv, I remember and honour the people who lost their lives, in the Yanukovych regime’s violent crackdown on protesters in Independence Square.

The Maidan movement started as a peaceful manifestation in support of Europe, justice and reforms. It was met with brutal violence from a corrupt and ruthless regime that wanted to cling to power at any cost. The violence led to the tragic deaths of more than one hundred people, but also to the fall of the regime. Maidan became a beacon of hope for change, and a better future for Ukraine.

That hope is still alive today. But we know that the vision of a prosperous and reformed Ukraine is perceived as a threat in other parts of Europe. Over the last year, Russia has illegally annexed Crimea and by arming and supplying so-called separatists, has subjected Ukraine to acts of aggression that have so far claimed the lives of more than 6 000 people. Almost 1.5 million people have been forced to flee from their homes. The responsibility for this lies with Russia.

Sweden and the EU have supported the diplomatic efforts to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to bring an end to the conflict. By supporting Ukraine, we keep the hope of change alive and show that aggression and the use of force will never pay off or be accepted in Europe in our time. Today, Maidan goes by the name of Euromaidan to honour the strong wish of the Ukrainian people to belong to Europe. Let me assure you that for Sweden there is no doubt that Ukraine is a part of Europe and has a clear place in Europe. We share a future. We share ideals, and hope.

That is why EU integration is the main focus for our cooperation with Ukraine. The Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU is the most far-reaching agreement that the EU has ever signed with a third country.
Once Ukraine has fulfilled all commitments under the agreement, the logical next step would be to prepare an application for full EU membership. That may still be some time in the future, and would require hard work and efforts by Ukraine. But let me assure you that Sweden stands fully behind Ukraine’s vision of an ever closer relation with the European Union.

In Ukraine, you know better than anyone what needs to be done. Reforms will be needed to improve the rule of law and the business climate, enforce EU standards
and fight corruption at all levels. Such reforms require a strong political will and a determination to go against some vested interests. But the gain will be plentiful:
In the 20 years from 1992 to 2012 the GDP per capita in Latvia grew by 340 percent as they step by step became part of the European union. Ukraine, which had a higher GDP per capita than Latvia in 1992, grew only by some 40 per cent in the same period. In the area of trade and investments,
all evidence from countries like Poland, the Baltic States and Serbia show the value of closer integration in the EU.
It’s the largest integrated market in the world, with 500 million consumers and a combined GDP of 12 900 billion EUR (2012), representing one fifth of world GDP.
We realize that the challenging situation in Ukraine means that support is needed urgently.

From Sweden’s perspective we have tried to find a balance between short-term stabilizing efforts and long-term support of reforms. Sweden’s cooperation with Ukraine goes back a long time, and we are committed to remaining your partner.

Swedish has made a seven year commitment to allocate at least of 25 million euro in support of reform in Ukraine.

We have a continuous dialogue on where this support is most useful to you. You know better than anyone what reforms should be pursued, and our support is based on your needs and priorities.

I want to give you some examples of what we do, and would welcome your thoughts on other areas where support could be needed. I would like to bring up decentralisation, energy efficiency and gender equality.

First of all: Decentralisation.
In our view, decentralisation is the key for substantial change and a strong and developed democracy.
It would bring power closer to the people in Ukraine,
and promote important reforms in many fields.
For example: Local authorities need to have more decision-making and budgetary powers in order to restructure the energy sector.

That brings us to my second point: Energy efficiency.
The need for energy efficiency goes further and beyond decentralisation. The waste of energy is one of the heaviest burdens on the Ukrainian economy.
Ukraine uses almost three times more energy per unit of GDP than the EU average. For the energy efficiency projects to be viable and efficient, it is essential that Ukraine launches a far-reaching reform of its entire energy sector, including tariffs.

And third: Gender equality.
Our focus is to support women’s economic and social empowerment. Combating violence against women is an essential part, as well as further strengthening of women’s rights and continued efforts to eliminate obstacles to prevent the full advancement of women. The objective should be to integrate gender equality in all dimensions of society, which would also generate higher economic growth.
Gender equality and more women in the work force is a crucial contributor to a society’s wealth and welfare,
and has built Sweden’s prosperity for many decades.

Finally, let me say this:
You, as students, are the future of this great nation.
You will be the ones who will carry these necessary reforms forward and contribute to a better society and a new future of Ukraine and Europe. EU integration entails, as you all know, comprehensive and sometimes difficult reforms.
But I am sure your country is ready and willing to take on this challenge, and Sweden stands ready to fully support you on this journey. We stand behind you in support of your right to make a free, sovereign choice on what kind of society you want to integrate. We do not impose anything on anyone. We do not tell you what is in your interest.
We respond to your requests and aspirations
– including the aspirations you so clearly showed on Euromaidan a year ago. That is and will remain our guiding principle, today and over the coming years,
so that our countries can share a greater prosperity and freedom.

Thank you.