Address of EP President Martin Schulz to the Verkhovna Rada

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, visited Ukraine and made an address in the Ukrainian Parliament. 

Dear President Poroshenko,
Dear Prime Minister Yatsenyuk,
Dear Chairman Groysman,
Dear Members of the Verkhovna Rada,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure to be here with you on this special day,
the day of the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between the European Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
This agreement will bring our two Parliaments, and thus our people, even closer together.

As Europeans, peace and unity on our continent are ideals we all treasure.

Our shared values, democracy and rule of law, individual rights and human dignity, drive the European project.

During the Maidan revolution;
you stood up and demanded free elections,
you went out on the streets to live in a society that is free, democratic and pluralistic,
you chose the European path by signing and ratifying the Association Agreement with the European Union. And we have welcomed your European choice.
It was a courageous choice.

Yet, when I look back at the last year and a half,
I am appalled by all the suffering endured by the Ukrainian people.
Never could I have imagined, seventy years after the end of the Second World War,
25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain,
that people in Europe would be denied the right to decide on their own destiny;
that borders in Europe could again be redrawn by force;
that the architecture of peace we had built together after the Cold War could come under attack;
and that the maxim “might makes right” could again take precedence over the rule of law.
Yet, it happened.

Ladies and gentlemen,
What happens in Ukraine concerns all Europeans.
We cannot stand by and watch idly while the founding principles of the international community are being violated.
We have agreed on rules for states to follow when dealing with each other.
These rules apply to all.
We cannot accept that bigger countries bully smaller ones to get their way,
We cannot accept, that rules of international law apply to some but not all.

Since the beginning of the conflict, and after the unlawful annexation of Crimea,
the European Union has worked towards a peaceful solution.
I have myself fully supported the mediation efforts of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande.
We have to face the facts:
there is no military solution to the conflict.
All sides are well advised to restrain themselves and abstain from warmongering and nationalistic rhetoric.
History teaches us that too often heated up spirits can easily run out of control.

In the words of Martin Luther King,
“the old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind”.
Thus, all parties and the international community must do everything in their power to prevent the situation from spiralling completely out of control.
There is only one viable solution and that is a political solution in full respect of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
And a political solution can only be a solution that is found together with Russia.

We have no choice but to keep on negotiating with Russia while making it very clear
that we will not abandon our principles and that there will be no return to “business as usual”
as long as the Minsk Agreements are not fully implemented.

Unfortunately, ever since the second Minsk agreements were signed in February,
we have seen provocations and daily violations of the ceasefire and the continuation of violence, shelling and suffering of people.
Accordingly, on the 22 of June the European Union prolonged its sanctions regime against Russia.

We will keep up the sanctions until the day the letter and the spirit of the Minsk agreement is fully implemented and other international commitments are upheld.
We urge all parties to stick to their word and follow-up on what they have agreed to do:
uphold the ceasefire;
withdraw all Russian troops, weapons and Russian-backed illegal armed groups and mercenaries;
provide full control of the border by the Ukrainian authorities and exchange all prisoners;
and enable the decentralisation reform and free and fair regional elections under the supervision of the OSCE.

In June the European Parliament condemned again Russia’s aggressive policy,
including the information war and the economic pressure exercised against Ukraine and neighbouring countries. We clearly stated that a re-engagement with Moscow depends on Russia’s respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including Crimea.
This week’s failure of the trilateral negotiations has resulted in Russia cutting off the gas supply to Ukraine. We call on Russia to immediately return to the negotiation table.
We want to work towards a viable solution, one that will prevent similar disruptions in the future and ensure security of gas supply to Europe and Ukraine.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The suffering of the Ukrainian people is appalling.
All across Europe, we can only feel for the plight of the families of the thousands of victims killed on Maidan square and in Eastern Ukraine, and of more than a million who have been forced to flee their homes.
The humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea is dreadful.
Human decency demands that humanitarian workers are given access to people in need!

The European Union and its Member States are the biggest donors of humanitarian aid to the conflict areas.
But much more is needed to cope with the scale of this tragedy.
The Ukrainian nation is facing major security, economic and social challenges all at once and on multiple fronts:
the standard of living is deteriorating for normal Ukrainians;
the economy suffered thirty eight consecutive months of industrial decline and experienced massive inflation and depreciation of the currency.
Moreover, the continuing conflict in the East is draining a lot of resource and energy and is preventing you to fully focus on economic recovery.

And I repeat:
what happens in Ukraine concerns all Europeans.
This is why throughout this difficult period; we have enhanced our support for your country:
by supporting your reform process;
by boosting your economy;
by quickly providing the much needed macro-financial assistance.
The European Parliament encourages you to address in a determined way the on-going financial crisis and fight for a functioning, rule-based and socially responsible market economy.

We want you to continue on the ambitious reform path you have embarked on.
And we will be on your side during this journey.
In the past we have proved:
our words are followed by deeds:
The Commission earmarked thirteen billion Euros to help stabilise Ukraine,
with the aim of closing the widening social gaps and re-starting the economy.

This support is based on the expectation that Ukraine continues with its reform agenda:
strengthening the rule of law;
reforming electoral law;
engaging in comprehensive constitutional reform; eliminating endemic corruption;
and guaranteeing human rights and minority rights.

The coalition agreement signed on the 21 of November is the most ambitious reform program ever drafted in the Ukraine.
I commend you for it.
As you know, trust and stability will only come as a result of key judicial, constitutional and anti-corruption reforms at home.

We already note convincing progress:
from comprehensive natural gas market reform – making energy business more transparent and in line with the EU Third Energy Package to the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, to the fulfilment of the conditions of the IMF programme.
Much remains to be done.
But with your continuous determination and consistent help from the international community, everything is possible.

Dear colleagues,
I made Kyiv the first destination and the first official visit in my second mandate as President of the European Parliament, because I wanted to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
After the simultaneous ratification of the Association Agreement by our two Parliaments on 16 September last year – a first in the history of our chambers – today’s ceremony is another strong symbol to the world that we stand united.

Today’s Memorandum of Understanding,
which Chairman Groysman and I will sign on behalf of our two chambers,
will provide us with a joint framework for parliamentary support and capacity building.
I am joined here today by the Bureau of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, which will help oversee and coordinate the programme. Together we will strengthen the constitutional roles of law-making, oversight and representation of the Verkhovna Rada.

We will assist you in improving the legislative process in Ukraine,
by strengthening capacities of your committees and reviewing your internal organisation.
Our aim is to help you become a strong, effective and independent Parliament,
a Parliament, capable of pushing through the necessary reforms
a Parliament capable of building up a new generation political culture.

Already today, the Association agreement with the EU is bearing first fruits.
I am confident that as of January 2016,
with the full application of the agreement,
the association with the EU will open new opportunities and bring real benefits in your daily lives.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I admire your endurance, your determination to stay strong, to take your fate into your own hands and to shape a better future for your country.

I appeal to you,
as the representatives of the Ukrainian people,
as the democratically elected members of the Verkhovna Rada:
to live up to your task and use this historic opportunity to the benefit of your people.
The day will come when your ambitious reform agenda will have been accomplished,
And this will be the day when the hopes and dreams of the Maidan revolution will have become a reality.
With all my heart I wish the Ukrainian people to succeed.

Thank you very much for your attention.