Ukrainian president: reforms are important but EU, NATO membership is political decision

  • 2021-07-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Implementation of reforms is important but Ukraine’s membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO is a political decision, Ukrainian president has said.

“I think that the issue of membership in the EU and NATO is partly related to reforms but these are mostly political issues,” Volodymyr Zelensky said during a news conference in Vilnius on Wednesday.

Considering the circumstances, the hostilities in the east of the country, Ukraine was one of the countries implementing reforms at the most rapid pace, he said adding that the requirements placed on the country were particularly high.

“Speaking frankly about the term, the situation, the environment, the war, about the situation, in which Ukraine implements the reform, I think we are the fastest in Europe today. We are very fast. With minimum red tape as we understand the cost of this time for us. This time costs us people,” the Ukrainian leader said.

“Therefore the process [of implementing reforms] is continuing at a rapid pace as we will not be able to be powerful and strong without reforming Ukraine. We spend a lot of money on our country’s defense. At the same time, however, we also implement reforms in the area of infrastructure, – Zelensky said. – Thousands of kilometers of modern roads, infrastructure, bridges are being built in Ukraine today. Thousands, and not hundreds… Come to Ukraine and see the pace we are building Ukraine at today, at the time when we have a war in the East, when Russia has annexed Crimea.”

He admitted not being overly optimistic about a clearer perspective for Ukraine as regards membership in the EU and NATO.

“In my view, the most important is that the Ukrainian nation does not lose faith, that the EU certainly sees Ukraine as an equal member, during that time, days or years,” the Ukrainian president said.

He claimed that he felt the support of many countries as well as Charles Michel, President of the EU Council. Nonetheless, there also were countries having doubts about Ukraine’s membership in both the EU and NATO, Zelensky stressed.

“Can it be that some countries may consider 14,000 [war] fatalities an insufficient price for us to show what the values of the Ukrainians are? Therefore I think that it is wrong. I think the Ukrainians share the European values, I think that our values are identical,” he said.

“It is true, we are different countries, we have different languages and differences in mentality. Yet I think that the values are the same. However, as we see, the cost of EU membership is different,” the Ukrainian leader added.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said during the joint news conference that the international community was interested in a flourishing and democratic Ukraine but also stressed the necessity of reforms in that country.

According to him, Ukraine’s integration in the EU would be impossible “if we do not see clear progress and breakthrough in the implementation of reforms”.

Ukraine should focus on the effective implementation of reforms, fight against corruption, implement judicial reform and develop a safe and stable environment for investment, the Lithuanian leader said.

On July 7-8, Vilnius hosts the Ukraine Reform Conference, which has brought together international partners and Ukraine’s representatives to discuss the country’s achievements and challenges in the implementation of reforms, and to confirm support of the international community for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the process of reforms.

Plans for Ukraine's European integrations up to 2030 should also be defined.