This is already the fourth time that Foreign Minister Baerbock has visited Ukraine since Russia launched its illegal war of aggression against its western neighbour over a year and a half ago. Every day, the people of Ukraine are experiencing terrible things: bombs are falling on Ukrainian cities; schools, hospitals and homes are being destroyed; and children, women and men are being injured and killed.
Despite this utterly unimaginable suffering, the people of Ukraine are not losing their faith in their future: they are defending themselves against Russia’s aggression and are rebuilding those parts of their country that have been destroyed. At the same time, the fight against corruption and the important moves towards judicial reform that had started before the war are continuing.
These are all important steps on the path to the European Union. Ukraine has been a candidate country since 24 June 2022. Germany is supporting Ukraine along this path. Before the decision to begin accession negotiations is taken, Ukraine must meet seven reform priorities identified by the European Commission. These include the fight against corruption, legislation on a selection procedure for independent and qualified judges at the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, vetting of new judges, combating money laundering, implementing an anti-oligarch law, legislation on the media and protection of minorities. Some of these reform priorities are now regarded as having been met.
Arriving in Kyiv, Foreign Minister Baerbock said:
In the midst of a hail of bombs, confronted by Russian tanks, Ukraine has set off resolutely and full of optimism along the path to join the European Union. Ukraine is defending the freedom of us all with great courage and determination. Just as Ukraine is standing up for us, it can also rely on us and on our understanding of EU enlargement as a necessary geopolitical consequence of Russia’s war. And on our firm support for Ukraine on its path towards the European Union.
Protecting critical infrastructure and the green transition
Even though Ukraine is still enjoying summer temperatures, the country is already preparing for the forthcoming winter. Over the past few months, Russia has repeatedly and deliberately targeted Ukraine’s infrastructure; Russian drones and missiles have in particular destroyed electricity, heating and water systems. Last winter saw over 1500 attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure. One focus of Foreign Minister Baerbock’s visit will therefore be on the measures being taken by Ukraine to ensure and protect supplies to the population, not least in the upcoming winter. Germany is a partner in this endeavour and at the end of 2022 made the biggest contribution to the Ukraine Energy Support Fund, 130 million euro.
Looking beyond this winter, too, Ukraine is working to build a strong economy. In this context, Germany and Ukraine intend to further intensify cooperation – on the transition to renewable energies, on the phase-out of coal, on stable power grids and energy-efficient housing. So the feasibility of a wind farm in the Chernobyl exclusion zone will be a subject for discussion on the fringes of the visit. In the midst of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the area affected by the nuclear accident almost forty years ago may thus become a symbol of clean, climate-friendly energy, providing Kyiv with green electricity.
Russia is deliberately trying to split up Ukrainian families
According to official Ukrainian statistics, Russia has abducted almost 20,000 Ukrainian children since the start of its war of aggression and moved them to re-education camps in Russia in an attempt to rob them of their Ukrainian identity. This flagrant violation of international law by Russia and the fates of the affected families will therefore be an important focus of this trip.
In addition, Foreign Minister Baerbock will be meeting women and men who were detained in the occupied territories and removed to Russian prison camps despite being completely innocent.