EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has called on Ukraine to continue on its path to reform, despite what she called the “huge challenges” posed by Russia’s involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
“If we are here today, it is to clearly say that we stand by Ukraine, by its people, by its government, to support the reforms already done,” Mogherini told the Ukraine Reform Conference in Copenhagen on June 27.
Mogherini said she was “impressed by the determination and the energy” with which Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman and the Ukrainian government are “pushing for reforms, especially on anticorruption.”
But she insisted that "more reforms are needed now."
Mogherini praised Ukraine’s plan to establish an independent anticorruption court, saying that once the court is fully established, "Ukraine will have the possibility to live up to the standards recommended by the Venice Commission," a group of independent experts in constitutional law.
"We all know that reforms are not taking place in a void. The challenges are huge," she also said, citing the “illegal annexation” of Ukraine's Crimea region by Russia in March 2014 and the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
“The European Union has always underlined Russia's responsibility in this and we keep supporting Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence in a united and decisive manner," Mogherini added.
The EU official said Ukraine and the bloc have “never been closer than today,” pointing out the “biggest support package in our history.”
The EU has pledged a 13 billion euro ($15 billion) package to “support the reform process” in Ukraine and help the country cover its external financing needs.
Mogherini also said that the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine put into effect last year is the “most ambitious” the bloc has ever developed with a partner country.
Speaking at the Copenhagen conference, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan reinforced the importance of the Ukrainian government adhering to requirements set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for further financial assistance from the international organization, according to a statement released after the event.
The brief statement did not cite specific requirements, but in the past the United States and IMF have urged Kyiv to push for reforms, including the crackdown on corruption, to secure additional loans. Reforms targeting the health-care and pension systems, decentralization, and public administration have also been cited.
Sullivan also reiterated U.S. opposition to Nord Stream 2, a planned natural-gas pipeline that is to run from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 would double the existing Nord Stream pipeline's annual capacity. But critics argue it will increase dependence on Russia and enrich its state-owned energy companies at a time when Moscow stands accused of endangering European security.
Hroysman, the Ukrainian prime minister, told the conference that "we are going through a tough time of building a new Ukrainian state.”
“In order to succeed, in order to move faster, we need support of the democratic world, because today we are in a fight standing up for our right to choose, the right to our own statehood and territorial integrity against an aggressor, which happens to be Russia," he added.