BRUSSELS — The European Union on Thursday appealed to Ukraine to make good on long-promised justice and economic reforms and to step up the fight against corruption, as both sides announced a review of a key agreement governing their relations.
After a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Brussels, top EU officials said the country’s government must pursue the pro-democracy reforms even as it struggles to cope with the impact of the coronavirus.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that justice reform is the key.
“This is the mother of all reforms. You cannot pretend to have rule of law, human rights, whatever you want, without an independent and efficient judiciary system. This is the core of a democratic country,” Borrell told reporters.
“It’s not a condition that we the Europe Union puts on the table. It’s something that Ukrainian people need and ask for,” Borrell said, although the reforms are part of an “Association Agreement” the EU has with Ukraine, and which entered force in 2017.
The pact is aimed at opening Ukraine’s markets and bringing it closer to Europe. It includes a far-reaching free trade pact and helps to modernize Ukraine’s economy.
The EU has given about 16 billion euros ($19.4 billion) worth of support to Ukraine since Russia annexed its Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Moscow made the move after the then government in Kyiv almost signed a similar agreement with the bloc amid concern that the former Soviet republic was turning its back on Russia.
Shmyhal said that the Ukrainian people remain committed to European integration. He said Association Agreement should be revised taking into account changes which have occurred since 2017, including reforms already undertaken by the government.
The EU remains satisfied with the pact and does not believe it requires amending although the Europeans are open to studying any proposals from Ukraine, EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said.
Varhelyi also said the EU will help Ukraine secure access to more coronavirus vaccines.