BRUSSELS – President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko reassured NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the main goal of Ukraine’s foreign policy is to prepare the country for membership of NATO.
Poroshenko also said he hoped that NATO members would recognize the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine during the meeting of heads of states and governments of the 29 NATO countries and Georgia, which was to take place in Brussels on July 12, on the second and last day of NATO Summit.
Usually, NATO leaders meet with Ukraine in the format of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC), but Hungary has blocked this – it has been unhappy with Ukraine’s treatment of the Hungarian minority in western Ukraine. As a compromise, allies agreed to have a meeting with Ukraine together with Georgia in a “29+2” format.
The dispute between Kyiv and Budapest has not only locked Ukraine out of commission meetings but also prevented the issuing of a joint declaration. Instead of a declaration, at the end of the meeting a statement will be released. The difference is that a joint declaration requires the agreement of all allies – which is impossible because of the Hungarian position. For a statement, unanimity is not needed.
Before the meeting, Poroshenko and Stoltenberg issued a statement to the press.
Poroshenko expressed the hope that the allies will “reconfirm their strong commitment to support Ukraine and to demonstrate unity and solidarity in our fight against Russian aggression.”
“I expect that our discussion with the allies will contribute to the further development of practical cooperation between Ukraine and NATO,” Poroshenko said.
He added that the Comprehensive Assistant package offered to Ukraine at the last NATO Summit in 2016 in Warsaw “helped us to strengthen our defense capability.”
“Achievement of NATO standards, meeting membership criteria are absolutely the main objectives of Ukraine’s security and defense sector reforms,” said Poroshenko.
He also said Ukraine’s objective was to reach NATO standards and achieve full interoperability with NATO forces by 2020.
“In order to accomplish this we are implementing the Annual National Program. This unique program is an effective tool, directing all our efforts to one ultimate goal – to prepare Ukraine for the future NATO membership,” Poroshenko said.
“We are committed to continue deep modernization of our country in the institutional, political and economic dimensions, in our joint efforts to build successful, prosperous and resilient Ukraine. This is best response to the Russian aggression and to the Russian propaganda. Integration into the EU and NATO is absolutely the top priority of my foreign policy and foreign policy of the country.”
Poroshenko also said that Ukraine doesn’t need to ask anybody “if we have the right to become a member or not.”
“This is the sovereign choice of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “I hope that the allies will recognize and support the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg said that during the meeting between the allies, Ukraine, and Georgia they will discuss the security situation in and around Ukraine, defense reforms and practical cooperation.
“NATO is firm in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And we strongly condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea,” Stoltenberg said.
He added that the Minsk Accords remain the path to peace in eastern Ukraine, where the situation remains serious, with repeated violations of the ceasefire and human rights every day.
“All parties need to implement their commitments,” Stoltenberg said. “And Russia has a special responsibility. It must withdraw its troops and its support for militants in Ukraine.”
Talking about Ukraine’s long-term goal to join NATO, Stoltenberg said that now “the focus must be on reforms.”
“You are making important progress. The adoption of a new law on national security is a welcome step,” he said.
“The law is the key to establishing civilian control and democratic oversight over the armed forces and the security services. The implementation of the law is now necessary so that this reform can take effect. So I encourage you to keep up the momentum. This will bring Ukraine closer to NATO.”