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On the anniversary of the Maidan protests, Minister for Europe, David Lidington reflects on Ukraine's future.
Today is the first anniversary of EuroMaidan. A year has passed since Ukrainians first started to gather in the centre of Kyiv, to protest against President Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU.
I visited Kyiv shortly after those demonstrations began and it is worth taking stock now, on the anniversary, of the enormous, remarkable – and still incomplete – chain of events that have occurred since then.
Most significantly, these events have ushered in a new, pro-EU and reformist parliament. For the first time since Ukraine’s independence, the country is on a real path toward European integration.
However, if Ukraine is to prosper, genuine reforms followed by their swift and effective implementation are essential. There is much to do, including:
- entrenching the rule of law
- rooting out corruption
- reducing bureaucracy and creating a business climate that allows entrepreneurs to flourish and create wealth and jobs
Many measures will not be easy but, as the history of Ukraine’s western neighbours shows, they provide a clear roadmap for success.
Despite these hurdles, I have confidence in Ukraine’s resolve and its people’s drive and determination to work towards a better future for themselves and their children. Just consider what they have accomplished so far since EuroMaidan began.
Ukraine’s internal political situation
On Ukraine’s internal political situation: a year ago, the Government was unpopular and widely discredited, being seen as a corrupt entity working for the interests of shady backers.
One year on, Ukraine has chosen a new president and just last month it elected a new parliament. The recent parliamentary elections were a clear example of Ukraine’s democratic progress, with over 2,000 international monitors fanning out across the country; an impartial and effective Central Election Commission; and extensive efforts to support those internally displaced people – over 400,000 – to be able to vote.
Ukraine’s relationship with European neighbours
Ukraine’s external aspiration for a closer relationship with European neighbours has been validated. Perhaps the most momentous achievement since the start of EuroMaidan was the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This was the very thing that brought people to the streets almost a year ago. Since then, many have fought and died for it.
Now it provides the framework for the deep-rooted political, economic and governance reforms that Ukraine desperately needs. The signing of the Association Agreement is a powerful step towards closer relations between the EU and Ukraine, which in the long term could lead to full EU membership for Ukraine, if that is what its people and Government want, and if Ukraine is able to implement the wide-ranging economic, political and judicial reforms that would be necessary to meet the demanding conditions of entry.
Ukrain’e efforts at maintaining its integrity as a nation
It is worth considering Ukraine’s efforts at maintaining its integrity as a nation. This is the most difficult area, for one very simple reason. The Kremlin has sent hundreds of troops into Ukraine, amassed thousands more on the border, and provided an endless supply of weapons and tanks to its proxies in the east. This is not assertion; it is fact. We have satellite imagery, pictures from people on the ground, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe reports, and first-hand accounts. Russia’s denials are – quite simply – not credible.
Despite the enormous challenges, consider what Ukraine has achieved in response. Even with a less well-resourced military, Ukraine has successfully liberated swathes of territory. In towns such as Slovyansk, which our Ambassador recently visited, normal life is beginning to resume and the vast majority of the population welcomes the reassertion of Ukrainian sovereignty.
The ground is now set, a year on from EuroMaidan, for Ukraine to transform itself into a modern and prosperous European state. But that requires patience and determination. One of the greatest challenges for new parliamentarians taking office is that they cannot become complacent. So we encourage all members of the parliament to grasp the opportunity they have been given, to make a clear break with the past as those on Maidan demanded.
Over the past year, the people of Ukraine have demonstrated their strong commitment to a democratic future and a stronger relationship with the EU. On the anniversary of EuroMaidan, you should be proud that these are no longer just dreams – but real, achievable goals. We are ready to support Ukraine through the next year, the one after, and the decades after that.