Ukraine's Relations with NATO/Europe
His Excellency Borys Tarasyuk
Foreign Minister of Ukraine
The NATO Workshops on Political-Military Decision Making have become a kind of annual treat for me. This is my seventh year of participation, and I have enjoyed following the debates throughout the years. Perhaps we should institutionalize future workshops as high-level, ad hoc Euro-Atlantic PartnershipCouncil (EAPC) brainstorming sessions.
THE PATH TO EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
Today I would like to speak on Ukraine's relations with NATO; I will not speak about Ukraine's relations with Europe, because Ukraine is part of Europe. Our strategic foreign policy course to integrate with European and Euro-Atlantic structures is a natural result of the historical, cultural, and geopolitical realities of Ukraine's development These realities include promoting common democratic values, introducing sound management and high technology, building prosperity, and safeguarding the environment, courses that we were deprived of for centuries. The same was true for East Germany and other former Warsaw Pact countries that were separated from the European mainstream for decades.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine reached out to NATO and the European Union as the two organizations that best symbolized security and prosperity on the Continent. The first contacts were established back in 1991-92. Ukraine then joined PFP and signed the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU in 1994, continuing its work in formulating a coherent integration policy towards Europe.
In subsequent years, much has been done to shatter the stereotypes the West had about the nations on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The idea of a truly united Europe has gradually started to take shape, driven by a mutual desire of the two halves of Europe to come back together. Ukraine has continued to take part in this process by joining the Council of Europe and the Central European Initiative, and launched together with other countries of the region the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
ACCELERATING THE RETURN TO EUROPE
The re-election of President Leonid Kuchma in November of 1999 gave significant impetus to our European and Euro-Atlantic integration. President Kuchma campaigned on a "European ticket," which won him the votes of the Ukrainians. The "velvet revolution" that took place in the Ukrainian parliament also accelerated our return to Europe, as did the new government of Victor Yuschenko, by making European integration a cornerstone of its program of activities.
The two key priorities for Ukraine in this regard are obviously membership in the European Union and enhanced cooperation with NATO. They go hand in hand, and are inseparable components of our consolidated Euro-Atlantic policy. The European Union has become synonymous with prosperity and powerful economic development; NATO has become a symbol of security and stability. Both organizations share the same democratic values, to which Ukraine fully subscribes.
Relations between Ukraine and NATO have been evolving with increasing intensity, expanding to new levels and fields of cooperation. The year 1997 was marked by three memorable events: establishment of the NATO Information and Documentation Center, the first ever in the history of the Alliance, in Kyiv in May; the signing at the NATO-Ukraine Summit in Madrid of the charter on a distinctive partnership in July; and the opening of Ukraine's mission to NATO in October, one of the first missions of a Partner nation to begin. The charter remains a unique instrument for enhancing our political dialogue with the Alliance. It introduced the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC)-a permanent mechanism that enables an open discussion of the issues of European security and bilateral practical cooperation. Five levels of NUC meetings-Ambassadorial, Chief-of-Staff, Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers, and the NUC Summit in Washington-ensure comprehensive coverage of the Ukraine-NATO agenda.
This agenda is currently being enriched and expanded, as evidenced by the latest NUC meetings in Kyiv and Florence. Civil emergency planning, science and technology, armaments, defense-related economic issues, information and the ecological aspects of security are all areas that appear promising and have produced cooperation. The ratification in the Ukrainian parliament of the Open Skies Treaty is also an important confidence-building measure, and the SOFA Agreement has given the go-ahead to intensive joint military exercises and full employment of the Yavoriv PFP Training Center.
In the vast area of military cooperation, defense reform in Ukraine is of crucial importance. This is a difficult issue, but we are pursuing it with consistency. A recent meeting of the National Security and Defense Council adopted several decisions that will accelerate military reform in order to create mobile professional armed forces, as many European countries are doing.
We are determined to continue contributing, together with NATO and Partner countries, to maintaining stability and security in conflict areas. We will do this by:
- Adding our part of the Ukrainian-Polish Battalion, thus testing it for the first time in a field operation in Kosovo;
- Augmenting our 30-man civil police contingent in Kosovo by 110 people; and
- Multiplying our efforts as one of the guarantors of the peaceful settlement in Trans-Dniester in Moldova.
Because of the great cooperation between Ukraine and NATO, on the eve of the third anniversary of the Ukraine-NATO Charter the two partners continue to have a strategic interest in each other and make it real in practical cooperation.
Current Ukraine-EU relations also offer much reason for optimism. Our cooperation has become more structured, streamlined, and focused. Two factors are playing prominent roles.
The first is the active domestic reforms that President Kuchma and the new government are driving. These reforms are in the administrative, agricultural, and energy sectors, in addition to improving the investment climate, preparing a new tax code, and beginning "big" privatization, all of which are having a powerful, positive impact on Ukraine's progress toward European integration. Because of such reforms, the European Union has changed its attitude and voiced the possibility of Ukraine's joining it in the future. Our progress was also appreciated at the recent meeting of the Cooperation Council, in which Prime Minister Victor Yuschenko participated.
The second important factor is the adoption of the EU Common Strategy on Ukraine. In contrast to all the previous documents-either unilateral action plans or bilateral agreements-this strategy contains real integration mechanisms and very important new elements. These elements presuppose a shift from purely sectoral cooperation to cooperation in matters that involve a wider scope of activity and institutions in Ukraine. Such cooperation includes work in foreign and security policy, involvement of Ukraine in CFSP, efforts regarding justice and home affairs, the fight against illegal migration, establishing smoothly operating borders, and implementing new visa policies.
Through such efforts, the prospects are good for Ukraine to translate its "unique and strategic" partnership with the European Union into the future. We are working hard to reach our goal.
As a short-term goal we are working toward full implementation of the PCA, the EU Common Strategy, and the Strategy work plans; in parallel, we are working on acquiring market economy status in anti-dumping procedures and accession to WTO hopefully by the end of this year. Very soon, the national program for Ukraine's integration into the EU will be adopted, a program that prescribes how all the central bodies and regions must streamline their activity to reach this principal goal.
Following its adoption, we will establish the preconditions for associated membership by signing the European Agreement and continuing to adjust national legislation to EU standards. We hope also to establish a free trade area with the EU and to prepare the Ukraine-EU "White Book" to cover the whole range of official and people-to-people contacts.
Finally, implementation of the Copenhagen criteria will lead to full membership.
NATO AND EU ENLARGEMENT
The enlargement processes of both NATO and the European Union have had a significant impact on Ukraine's relations with these organizations. Ukraine continues to fully support these processes as they expand the area of security, stability, and prosperity on the Continent. We have witnessed several cases in which enlargement has had a positive influence on the aspiring nations. Enlargement is stimulating democratic development and human-oriented economic reforms, contributing to confidence and good-neighbor relations, and helping to settle border problems and minority issues.
Such benefits, I believe, are behind the recent Vilnius Statement made by nine European countries that have agreed to work together to reach their common objective of NATO and EU membership. Their aspirations fully correspond to the spirit of the Paris Charter for a new Europe, a document that upholds the right of every nation to seek ways of ensuring its national security. The countries are also basing their efforts on NATO's open-door policy, which should be maintained.
During the process of EU enlargement, we should work to avoid any possible undesirable consequences, such as disruption of trade and human exchanges and the establishment of new visa curtains between Ukraine and its Western neighbors. Ukraine's new visa policy, its intensified cooperation with the EU and the aspirant countries, and its strong showing in justice and home affairs should lessen the risk of any undesirable results.
I would like to emphasize that, as we pursue our course toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Ukraine is not asking solely for immediate benefits. On the contrary, from the very beginning of our independence we have been a net contributor to a number of critical areas in European development. NATO has recognized Ukraine's key role in security and stability not only for Central and Eastern Europe, but for Europe as a whole.
In 1993 Ukraine proposed creating an area of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe. Today Ukraine has become an acknowledged regional leader. It is also a promoter of confidence-building measures; an initiator of the Baltic-Black Sea Cooperation Process; a founder of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and the GUUAM forum; a mediator for resolving "frozen conflicts"; a contributor to crisis management and peacekeeping missions throughout the EAPC area; and a participant in the strategic political triangle with Poland and the U.S. and in the joint economic projects with Moldova and Romania. Wherever there is danger to Europe and its democratic values, and wherever conflicts jeopardize peace and stability, Ukraine will be there to help, because we realize that any local instability poses a threat to the whole of Europe and to unity. Ukraine believes that European affairs are our affairs and our responsibility, now and in the future.