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Ladies and gentlemen
Welcome to Copenhagen. Welcome to the Ukraine Reform Conference 2018.
It’s indeed an honor for Denmark to be hosting this event. I hope and expect it will help Ukraine to move forward.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure to visit Ukraine.
A country with a unique history and culture. A mixture of east and west. And a story of hope and pursuit of freedom.
Today the struggle for a better future is more important than ever. And we have a lot at stake. Not only for Ukraine – but all of us.
About four years ago Russia set aside fundamental principles of international coexistence.
Military aggression. Hybrid warfare. Illegal annexation of Crimea.
An unacceptable attempt to hinder Ukrainian people’s free choice of shaping their own future.
But Russia did not succeed. They could not overcome the free will of the Ukrainian people.
The sacrifice of the people on Maidan square must not be in vain.
The leadership of Ukraine – and its international partners – must keep struggling to ensure that “New Ukraine” prosper in the spirit of the “Revolution of Dignity”.
Reforming a society fundamentally – is an immense task.
It includes disrupting the way things have been. How services are delivered. The way governance is exercised. Basically: How the wheels of society are put in motion.
Yet despite the magnitude of the task.
And despite Russia’s continued aggression – Ukraine has come a long way.
Gradually, reforms are releasing Ukraine from old Soviet structures.
Economy is improving. Trade is expanding. People-to-people relations are growing.
And day by day, Ukraine is moving closer to its European friends. Not at least through the association agreement, the Free Trade Agreement and the visa free regime allowing Ukrainians to travel freely to the EU.
Indeed, the “New Ukraine” is rising – slowly but steadily.
You have turned a scenario of regression into a window of opportunity.
That calls for respect and admiration.
Yet – in order for progress to continue. Reforms must go on.
It will serve to show Russia, that breaching international law and principles is not tolerated.
And that European values – freedom, democracy, humanity and the rule of law – are the foundation for all countries who strive for a prosperous future.
One example is the fight against corruption.
I would like to take this opportunity today to congratulate Ukraine on the recent adoption of the bill on the High Anti-Corruption Court. It is a major breakthrough.
I trust the Ukrainian government will ensure that the Court becomes operational as soon as possible.
We have also seen remarkable progress over the last three years in the energy sector. Denmark takes part in the efforts of energy reforms.
The goal is to make Ukraine independent of Russian energy.
And Denmark has decided to support the Ukraine-Denmark Energy Center with an additional 20 million Danish Kroner.
The list of achieved reforms is impressive. But hard work still remains.
Further economic development and growth is needed.
Better framework conditions are required. For businesses and investments, including foreign investments.
Private companies depend on a well-functioning and independent system of justice.
And privatization of many of the 3500 state owned enterprises entail a great economic potential and should be carried out without any delay.
As good friends we have to be honest.
While a lot has been done – some reforms are moving forward at snail’s pace.
Old economic and political interests are trying to prevent change.
Populist forces – who argue that prosperity can be achieved without painful reforms.
Such interests and forces are not only seen in Ukraine – but if they succeed in Ukraine, the impacts could be dramatic.
Prime Minister, we are counting on you. Further reforms are Ukraine’s ticket to freedom and long term stability.
And make no mistake.
Denmark – and the international community – remain firmly behind Ukraine in your struggle to break the chains of the past.
We are fully aware of your troubled starting point and your immense potential.
We are on your side, because you share our vision of true democracy, freedom and the rule of law.
You will not be forgotten and put to the side as a frozen conflict. And you are not alone on this journey of yours.
There is no reason why Ukraine’s citizens should not enjoy the same prosperity and quality of life as their European equals.
And I firmly believe it is within reach – if you keep doing your utmost to grab the opportunity.
If you are halfway to your destination, the best thing you can do is to keep walking.
I hope this conference will help and encourage Ukraine and its people to keep walking – in the right direction. Towards a brighter future.
On this note, I will pass the floor to the Ukrainian Prime Minister, my friend Volodymyr.