Speech by Director General, Ms. Nina Vaskunlahti at Celebrations at the Embassy of Ukraine in Helsinki

Ms. Nina Vaskunlahti, Director General
Department for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Celebrations at the Embassy of Ukraine in Helsinki, 28 February 2012

Re-establishing Diplomatic Relations between Ukraine and Finland – the 20th Anniversary

My personal memories on Ukraine go back to the second half of the 1990s when I was working in Brussels at the Finnish Permanent Representation to the European Union – I was in charge of the COEST working group that dealt ia. with EU- Ukraine relations. During those years I also made my first business trips to Kiev to discuss with the Ukrainian colleagues, while preparing for the first Finnish Presidency of the European Union.

We have come quite a long way since those days, and it has been a learning process for both of us. Ukraine has moved from the “European choice” to clearly recognized European identity.

President Yanukovich stated not long ago that 2012 is the year of European integration for Ukraine (including European football championships jointly hosted with Poland).

We welcome this, and acknowledge that a lot has been done: Ukraine has done progress in its reforms and in moving closer to the EU.

We also expect a lot from Ukraine due to its inherent Europeanes: European integration is very much about shared democratic values and fundamental freedoms, not just about free trade and economic cooperation: good governance, rule of law, independence of judiciary, up to date legislation and criminal codes to meet the demands of the 21st century, fundamentals of civil society.

The recent developments in these areas are somewhat worrying, but we trust that you share these values with us. We have not turned our back to Ukraine, when the going was rough, and we are still here. However, it is a two way street.

We hope to see progress in overall political reforms: trust the interlocutors, such as the Venice Commission. Their advice is worth while taking into account; e.g. electoral code.

We also hope to see improvements in the investment climate and dismantling barriers to trade. We hope to see increasing flows of trade, investments and tourists, student exchanges and cultural exchanges.

We believe in visa freedom provided that all the criteria are fulfilled: in spirit, in letter and in reality.

Both Ukraine and the EU have invested a lot of time in the Association Agreement negotiations, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Once they have been initiated, signed and ratified, there will be even more possibilities for expanding cooperation. However, the ball is very much in the Ukrainian court.

There is a good and well functioning relationship between Ukraine and Finland. We have a modern partnership that is not characterized by the amount of signed documents, but with other achievements. I appreciate the good cooperation with Andrii (Ambassador Deschytsia) and his team. It is a pleasure to work with you.

My congratulations on the anniversary. May the next years bring more openings for deepening the cooperation and political association.

Thank you for your attention.