Speech by Minister Mykkänen at the Ukraine Reform Conference

Speech by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen at the Ukraine Reform Conference, London, 6 July 2017.

Excellencies, colleagues,

Finland is celebrating the 100th year of its independence and that is why we all Finnish ministers you can recognize us with this symbol that we all wear. 100 years ago nobody in Berlin, nobody in Stockholm, nobody in St Petersburg, nobody in London  or even in Kyiv would have believed that Finland survives as an independent country for the 20th century. That is why we feel  exceptional solidarity with the Ukrainian nation who is now struggling for its right to choose its path as a European nation and a European country.

That is why I would like to thank our hosts and especially Foreign Secretary Johnson for his personal engagement in organizing this conference and also like to thank Prime Minister Hroisman and the other Ukrainian representatives.

Reforms are a long and painful process always but you have already gained a lot of significant results. I think that four years ago nobody in Moscow believed that you would survive without Russian gas, and that is now something that has happened for the last winter. I think that actually the willingness to reform and to execute the reforms can become a “trademark” for a Ukraine affirming its place in Europe.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to meet with Minister of Education, Ms. Lilia Hrynevych in Helsinki. We agreed about a new initiative to support teacher training to improve the quality of education and that is one of our new initiatives to support Ukraine in the coming years. Another of our new fields of collaboration is energy and there we see much potential. Ukraine has taken a bold step, also including sweeping changes to gas prices. Finding ways to minimize energy consumption is key to getting political support for the reforms so that the total costs are not growing.

Last year I had a personal privilege to open a Finnish funded energy efficient school in Kherson, not so far from the Crimea region, for local and internally displaced children. Yesterday I heard that actually this school is not anymore a consumer of energy but has recently become the first school in Ukraine to be a seller of energy produced by its solar panels and heat pumps and selling it to the community in Kherson.

Much progress has been made, more efforts are needed.  I think we are all inspired by the revolutionary IT solutions like the ProZorro procurement system that you have already implemented in Ukraine  but in the end people are those what matters when it comes to anti-corruption and judiciary methods.

Nevertheless I am optimistic about Ukraines future and actually we have three positive signs. First of all we have finally achieved ratification of the Association Agreement now also in Netherlands and are going forward with that agreement. We have started with the visa free regime which is symbolically important. And the most important thing is that Ukrainian exports to EU grew 25% now last year already. This is a very significant change in the picture of the Ukrainian economy. We are looking forward to continuing the dialogue and also our contribution as a small country to the future of Ukraine. Let´s hope that things go already easier than what they have done in the last five years.

Thank you for your attention.