Meeting in the framework of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC), 31 lawmakers from 13 NATO countries and Ukraine reviewed Ukraine’s extensive partnership with NATO and the country’s active contribution to Euro-Atlantic security, together with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana and Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Olga Stefanishyna.
On the eve of Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal’s visit to Brussels, NATO parliamentarians reaffirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations and condemned Russia’s ongoing illegal occupation of Crimea, destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine and militarisation of the Black Sea.
Opening the meeting, NATO PA President, US Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, stressed that 30 years since regaining independence, “Ukraine is paying a high price for the choices it has made. And we must stand firmly by your side to defend your freedom to choose your own future”, adding Ukraine’s partners “will never accept” the illegal occupation of Crimea.
Highlighting the rising threats to democracies, he also urged NATO and Ukraine “to learn from and help each other on how to protect and deepen our democracies and strengthen our ability to resist and counter attempts from within and from without to undermine them.”
In his address, NATO Deputy Secretary Geoana welcomed that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the distinctive partnership between NATO and Ukraine has remained dynamic. The new status as Enhanced Opportunities Partner will facilitate even closer cooperation. Recalling the Allies’ support for Ukraine’s path of Euro-Atlantic integration, he underlined the crucial role Parliament plays in driving forward the reforms needed to pursue this goal.
Ms Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, pointed to areas where NATO-Ukraine relations can be further enhanced: “The last year witnessed intensive engagement between Ukraine and NATO. However, there is still significant untapped potential for joint actions, particularly in the Black Sea region - a key element in Euro-Atlantic security. We call on the Allies to prioritise Black Sea security in the vision for NATO in 2030. It's important to develop NATO's strategy for the Black Sea together with partners. Another component of strengthening security and stability in the region is the implementation of the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership in NATO.”
Recalling the origins of NATO and the NATO PA’s synergetic cooperation with Ukraine since the signing of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine in 1997, UNIC Co-Chairperson Ojars Eriks Kalnins (Latvia) noted how “since then, this Council has provided an extremely valuable forum for parliamentarians to discuss not only NATO-Ukraine cooperation but also any issue of concern.”
Ruslan Stefanchuk, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and the other UNIC Co-Chairperson, underlined that “the parliamentary dimension remains an important component of our high-level political dialogue with NATO and Allies. Now, it is a common task for us, as representatives of the people, to reinforce cooperation between Ukraine and NATO, aimed at building a secure and prosperous area in the Euro-Atlantic region.” He added that “Ukraine highly appreciates the NATO PA and NATO`s strong stance on the issue of the ongoing Russian aggression in Donbas and Crimea.”
Mr Stefanchuk also informed the participants about a new initiative of Ukraine - the Crimean platform: “The current trends of the situation in Crimea are well known and can be generally characterised as deterioration in all areas. We see a need to enhance and broaden the response to the occupation. With this in mind, Ukraine initiated the establishing of the Crimean platform to achieve an eventual de-occupation of Crimea.”
UNIC was created in 1998 to bring greater transparency to the implementation of the NATO-Ukraine Charter and to demonstrate parliamentary interest and involvement in cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. It has since become a wider forum where members can discuss any issues of mutual concern.
UNIC meets twice a year: once in Brussels at NATO HQ and once in Ukraine. Its meetings are also open to the members of the Political Committee’s Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships.