Iryna GERASHCHENKO, co-chairperson of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) welcomed the delegates to Odesa and noted that the President of the Parliament had just presented a national security bill to the Rada. A number of allied countries helped with that draft and this has been widely appreciated in Ukraine. The goal of the bill is to move Ukraine closer to NATO standards across a wide spectrum of the security sector. Ukraine is increasing civilian control over security policy making and, in the future, it is expected that the Minister of Defence will be civilian. She noted that the war in Donbas began fourth years ago and the aggression has never ceased.
Raynell ANDREYCHUK, the NATO member co-chairperson of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) added that she was pleased that two women were chairing this Council and thanked the Rada and the Governor of the Odesa Region for helping to plan and host the seminar. She noted that the first bilateral meeting between member parliamentarians from the NATO PA and the Rada had taken place in 1988 and that the forum for this dialogue was renamed UNIC in 2003. The dialogue had taken place even as Ukrainian governments changed. The work of UNIC became particularly important after the illegal annexation of Crimea. The NATO PA then immediately affirmed its support for the sovereignty of Ukraine and was one of the first international organisations to sanction Russia for its actions. The NATO PA continues to condemn Russian actions in Crimea and the Donbas and it is offering support to the Rada to help it deal with the consequences of this difficult situation. She noted that Ukraine would likely feature at the upcoming NATO Summit and hoped that the Statement by the UNIC Chairs would help inform those discussions. [...]