European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Council President Charles Michel following the Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv on Tuesday, October 12, according to an Ukrinform correspondent.
"Ukraine is a sovereign and independent country perfectly capable of defining its own political priorities. For us, it is very important. We are getting closer to each other. This process needs three different spheres we are working on. The first is, of course, reforms for the benefit of Ukraine and its people. The second is the gradual economic integration of Ukraine into the EU, which is a strong force, a driving force. The third is, of course, the deepening of political association with the European Union, the full implementation of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. It is important that we are one European family," von der Leyen said.
She noted that the agreements on the Common Aviation Area and on Ukraine's accession to the Horizon Europe and Creative Europe program, which were signed at the summit in Kyiv, "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," von der Leyen said. In addition, she congratulated Ukraine on being among the first countries outside the European Union to connect to the EU Digital COVID Certificate system.
"Ukraine should stay 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," von der Leyen said.
She stressed the need to tap into the potential of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.
As an example, von der Leyen cited the digital area, in which Ukraine has a fairly strong position, but can continue to move forward through digital transformation. By implementing the EU's 5G toolbox, Ukraine will move closer to the EU Single Market, she said.
"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," von der Leyen said.
She stressed that the Association Agreement and the DCFTA remain a cornerstone of bilateral relations.
"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. […] 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," von der Leyen said.
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