President Donald Tusk has said that we have just finished the 20th EU-Ukraine Summit, which was a good moment to re-affirm the strong partnership and friendship between the European Union and Ukraine and to discuss how to take it further. Our partnership is built on solid foundations.
Our Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area entered fully into force a year ago. The result is clear and positive. And Ukraine’s economy is recovering with renewed positive growth.
Likewise on visa-free travel. Half a year after visa liberalisation entered into force, more than half a million Ukrainians have made use of this new opportunity.
Today we reaffirmed our commitment to advancing the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union on the basis of our common values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The same values that people once fought for on the Maidan and millions of Ukrainians have been fighting for since.
The European Union recognises the substantial progress Ukraine has made in its reform process. In the past year the Government has taken on a number of reforms, such as pensions and health care, that will be difficult in the short-term but make Ukraine stronger in the long-term.
We welcome the recent establishment of the High Anti-Corruption Court and look forward to the swift adoption of the amendments necessary to make it function properly. Anti-corruption reforms must remain high on the agenda.
The EU continues its unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. Our non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol remains firm and our visa ban list has been expanded following the conduct of Russian Presidential elections on the peninsula and the building of the Kerch bridge without Ukraine’s consent.
We continue to demand the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, underlining Russia’s responsibility for the war in eastern Ukraine. A few days ago, the EU leaders agreed unanimously to prolong – once again – our economic sanctions against Russia by another six months. Since 2014, the United Nations has recorded more than 10,250 people killed ad 24,600 injured so far in this conflict. This is happening in Europe.
Today we also remembered the tragic downing of flight MH-17, just like European leaders did two weeks ago in Brussels. We pay tribute to the victims, call on Russia to accept its responsibility and look forward to the effective prosecution of those responsible for this tragedy.
Let me conclude by recalling that our Summit last year was held on the birthday of the illegally imprisoned Ukrainian film maker and writer Oleh Sentsov. I am sorry to say that he remains in prison and on hunger strike for more than 50 days. Let me end with a renewed call for his release and for the release of all those illegally detained in Crimea and in Russia.
The independence of Ukraine and the security of Poland and the whole region are dependent to a great extent on the relationship between Kiev and Warsaw. The recent tensions demonstrate that not everyone has done their history homework. Only full solidarity between Ukraine and Poland can save us from a repeat of tragic history in future. I call on the authorities in both countries for a new approach to the question of our relations and positive thinking. Only our adversaries or political fools would want to see conflict between us.