Association Agreement an "Important Tool" for Ukraine's Welfare, Yanukovych Tells UN

Sep 25, 2013, 09:39 ET from Ukraine Monitor

NEW YORK, September 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

In a historic address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ukraine's President Victor Yanukovych said his nation sees its European aspirations as the "defining vector of our development."

In the speech, coming just two months ahead of the expected signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in Vilnius, Yanukovych noted how far the young nation has come: "The key catalyst for Ukraine's progress towards the achievement of the goals is the most extensive reform program in the recent history of our country, aimed both at social and economic transformations and further strengthening of our democratic system and the rule of law."

"We view Ukraine's aspirations as European aspirations - the defining vector of our development - through the prism of sustainability," he added.

Yanukovych's reform agenda has gone a long way to helping Ukraine meet the 11 benchmarks required for signing the Association Agreement. The Council of Europe has praised legal reforms, new business measures are encouraging investment and the recently introduced visa-free travel is boosting two-way interactions between Ukraine and the EU's 28 member states.

"I firmly believe that the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in November later this year, including the creation of a deep and comprehensive free trade area, will be an important tool for improving the welfare of citizens of Ukraine and thus contribute to the achievement of our country's Millennium Development Goals," Yanukovych said.

Following meetings with European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Barroso, Yanukovych expressed confidence that the accord will be signed. "There is a mutual understanding that there will be no obstacles on the way to signing the agreement," he said, adding that the main problem in Ukraine's relations with Russia "has always been the use of energy to pressure Ukraine."

In August, Russia disrupted Ukrainian goods from crossing its border, widely seen as retaliation for snubbing its own Customs Union. But Yanukovych was conciliatory, saying he wants to find a way to develop a relationship with the bloc.

"Our relationship with the EU will benefit the Customs Union," he said. "Ukraine is a bridge between Russia and the EU and it's very important to make sure that the bridge is strong and reliable."

SOURCE Ukraine Monitor