Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs


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Opinion piece from Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Sweden’s commitment to Ukraine deepens

Published Updated

Ukrainska Pravda 26 november 2014

Today I am making my first visit to Ukraine as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Today the Riksdag is also ratifying the uniquely comprehensive EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. These two events send a clear message: Sweden’s commitment to Ukraine continues and is being deepened.

The Government’s position on Ukraine enjoys firm support in the Riksdag and Swedish public opinion. Sweden has always stood up for an open Europe. We uphold Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union regarding the conditions for EU membership. Since our own accession to the EU, we have been active in advancing EU enlargement policy and efforts to become integrated with countries in eastern Europe, through the Eastern Partnership, for example. Ukraine is an important country in this regard.

The Government’s policies follow three parallel tracks: coordinated measures by the EU against Russia’s aggression, support for Ukraine’s reform agenda and long-term efforts for peaceful development in our part of the world.

For the Swedish Government, it goes without saying that we must continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This support rests on the principles of international law, and thus the Ukrainian people’s natural right to make their own decisions on the future of their country. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and its military aggression in eastern Ukraine are in breach of international law. I would like to emphasise the gravity of the fact that these breaches of the principles of our world order have been committed by a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which has a special responsibility for peace and security.

Sweden’s voice will be strong and clear in support of Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia we have agreed in the EU. The destabilisation of Ukraine must cease, and the Minsk Protocol must be respected. EU Member States decided as recently as last week to extend the list of people subjected to EU travel restrictions and the freezing of funds. EU Member States also agreed to consider additional new sanction areas if the situation so requires.

The outcome of the Ukrainian parliamentary elections in October confirmed the desire for reforms. We would like to see progress towards a stable democracy governed by the rule of law, an open economy and increasing prosperity and security for all citizens, and greater respect for fundamental human rights. Strengthening our economic ties and identifying necessary reforms to ensure continued EU integration will support Ukraine in its transition to a functioning market economy based on the rule of law. The Riksdag’s ratification of the Association Agreement is an expression of Sweden’s long-term support and our desire to deepen relations with Ukraine in all areas.

EU integration, however, requires broad-based and radical reforms. This means reforms to ensure an independent and effective rule of law, and decentralisation to bring public power closer to the people. This means transparency in public administration, combating corruption and increasing gender equality.

The difficulties must in no way be underestimated. Years of misrule have left deep wounds. As has Russian aggression. But a better future is possible – if everyone takes their responsibility: political leaders, who must not be allowed to repeat the mistake of the 2004 Orange Revolution, when personal ambitions eclipsed national interests; civil society and Ukrainian citizens, whose strength is needed to advance change; and the rest of the world. Sweden will do what it can.

Alongside our efforts in the EU, we will continue our extensive bilateral development assistance of more than SEK 200 million per year. We are helping to strengthen democracy and contributing support to concrete projects to strengthen protection of human rights, rule of law and anti-corruption measures. We are supporting institutional reforms and a continued strong role for civil society in reform efforts. We are among the leading foreign partners when it comes to energy-efficiency measures that can make Ukraine less dependent on foreign gas. We are also contributing humanitarian support as winter approaches, including SEK 35 million to various international actors to help the people in eastern Ukraine who have been hardest hit by the conflict.

Just as Ukraine needs a long-term strategy for its development, we need to work together with a long-term view to create conditions for easing tensions and promoting peaceful development in our part of the world. This must take place step by step and methodically, through candid dialogue based on the principles of international law. This is a difficult but necessary challenge. A united EU and coherent action with our partners, rooted in our common basic values, are of decisive importance if we are to succeed in achieving mutual security in a new era.

The challenges for Ukraine today are enormous. But we have also seen the power and determination displayed at Maidan, when hundreds of thousands of people braved the cold of winter in Kiev to demonstrate against misrule. Demands – which inspire hope that a better future is possible.

Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs