Speech at the Mohyla Academy in Kiev

01.03.2006 - Speech

Germany, the European Union and Ukraine – partners in Europe

ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you here in the Mohyla Academy. Although I have been able to catch only a few short glimpses of your city so far, that has been sufficient for me to gain an initial impression of Kiev’s beauty, size and status as a European metropolis.

The history of your distinguished university, the oldest in Eastern Europe, is inextricably linked to the Ukrainian people’s quest for independence and freedom over many centuries. And as the intellectual centre of the young, independent Ukraine it symbolizes your country’s openness to Europe and the world.

Against this background I am especially pleased that the Goethe-Institut will present parts of the private library of one of the most famous German political scientists, Kurt Sontheimer, to your university tomorrow in an official ceremony. Sontheimer, the controversial democrat who described himself as a German traumatized by 1933, devoted his life and works to the issue of anchoring a free democracy in Germany.

I have come here to talk to you about Ukraine and Germany, and to discuss Ukraine’s relations with the European Union. I am eager to hear your views on these issues.

Just over one year ago I followed the radical changes in your country with awe and sometimes, I’ll be quite honest, with bated breath. During the cold winter days of December 2004 many of you demonstrated courage, conviction and peaceful resolve in a way which still inspires respect today.

Ukraine’s citizens were no longer prepared to tolerate electoral fraud. They wanted to decide on the future of their country in free and fair elections. Through these protests the Ukrainian people underwent a process of renewal. They put Ukraine in its rightful place, where we Europeans wish to see it – at the heart of Europe.

The determined civil rights movement in Kiev and other cities also championed the cause of our common Europe. A democratic Europe with respect for human rights and a thriving civil society. The demonstrations showed civil society in action and were characterized by their non-violent expression and the high level of self-discipline and organization.

They thus prepared the ground in which independent media can flourish. Their critical reporting and frank discussions are strengthening civil society for the long haul ahead of them, which Bert Brecht recognized as following on from the initial uphill struggle. They are hot on the heels of such days of great drama and emotion.

The Presidents of Lithuania and Poland stood by the people during those days, and Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, was instrumental in persuading the Ukrainian Government to yield. As you know, the German Chancellor also used his influence to defuse the situation. The EU demonstrated that it is capable of putting a common foreign policy into practice. This was European integration policy in action.

You have made an encouraging start along the road to democracy and a market economy and achieved a great deal. Your efforts on the maidan helped turn the elections into what democracy would have them be – a free expression of the will of the people in deciding between political and personal alternatives.

You now have a public environment in which people already take freedom of expression for granted and deliberately make the most of it. Reforms in economic and social policy have been set in motion, notwithstanding all the difficulties.

It goes without saying that transformation into a stable democracy and to prosperity in a functional market economy is a long and arduous process. Setbacks may well occur. Some of your compatriots and some Europeans may have hoped to see more rapid progress. Perhaps some developments have not lived up to expectations. Sustainable governmental, economic and social reform needs time. In Germany we could tell you a tale or two about that, although our situation is easier.

A stable democracy requires not only free elections but also the separation of powers. This involves more than just a functioning parliament and an accountable government. Equally important is the rule of law and the independence of the justice system to ensure that government activity can be monitored and society is free to develop. It is therefore vital that Ukraine persists with reform also in connection with the rule of law.

Germany has supported the reform process in Ukraine from the outset. We were able to draw on our own experiences with reunification to help us. We have been involved in many areas to provide long-term support for Ukraine. The motivation behind our efforts is our desire to see Ukraine moving forward along its European path.

Our involvement has not been restricted to talks. We have underscored our words with action. Germany has supported the reform of Ukraine’s economy through its TRANSFORM programme, which has provided more than 114 million euro to date. The German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation is working with its Ukrainian partners to reform the areas of justice and administration.

The German Advisory Group counsels the Ukrainian Government on important economic and social policy matters and has done so for more than a decade. A year ago Federal Chancellor Schröder and President Yushchenko established a bilateral High Level Group to discuss economic issues and thus promote economic exchange. It benefits from the tried and tested cooperation fostered by German economic associations.

The results of our mutual efforts are commendable. Germany and Ukraine now enjoy intensive, wide-ranging relations in many areas. Trade between our two countries is undergoing dynamic development, seeing growth rates in double figures in recent years. Germany is Ukraine’s second largest trading partner. The companies in both countries have discovered the potential of their partner country and are profiting from the great opportunities.

We have also strengthened our cultural ties, as evidenced by the success of Ukrainian writers in Germany. The prose of Yuri Andrukhovych and Andrei Kurkov is enriching our country’s intellectual life and Germans’ appreciation of Ukraine. The presentation of the Book Prize for European Understanding to Yuri Andrukhovych at the Leipzig Book Fair, scheduled for 15 March, gives me particular pleasure.

We should also continue to foster exchange between our civil societies. Exchange among young people and town twinning arrangements play an especially important role. The citizens of our two countries should learn more about each other. I am sure that curiosity on both sides is considerable.

During today’s talks, President Yushchenko, Foreign Minister Tarasyuk and I agreed also to intensify our dialogue and build on our relations in the same spirit of trust in a political context. We are counting on the Ukrainian leadership to continue along this path with us after next month’s elections.

In a remarkable speech to the German Bundestag in March last year, President Yushchenko emphasized that Ukraine had decided in favour of Europe and was setting its sights on integration into the EU and NATO.

Ukraine has thus embarked on the road towards the West. A road on which Germans started out after emerging from the ruins of the Second World War following the military defeat at the hands of the Allies, and on which only part of Germany initially set out.

One of the best postwar German historians, Heinrich August Winkler, recently described this road in the last part of his history of Germany from 1806 to 1990, entitled “Der lange Weg nach Westen”. He shows what a tortuous route it was, and points out that it was only successful because Federal Governments with a firm allegiance to the West, particularly to the United States, were just as involved in its definition as Willy Brandt and his Ostpolitik, which centred around reconciliation with the East, détente and disarmament.

However, the whole of Germany could never have arrived successfully at the end of the road had not many people in East Germany courageously and resolutely protested against the violation of their independence and freedom in 1989.

Times have now changed, and Ukraine does not, thank God, find itself in the exceptional situation of a divided country.

Nonetheless, your country is beset by contradictions of a quite different nature. They, too, have their origin and their cause in war and the postwar period, the legacy of the political order in Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Unless the view from outside is deceptive, your country harbours a tangible, historically and geographically imposed tension between orientation towards the West and preservation of the traditional ties with Russia.

This calls for governments with sensitivity, shrewdness and responsibility towards both their own people and their neighbours in the East and the West.

Since Ukraine has decided that it wishes to set out along the road towards the West, it is vital for us to remember that membership of the EU and NATO cannot rest on good intentions alone.

Let me emphasize that the EU and NATO are in principle open to new members! But it is up to Ukraine whether it aligns itself more closely to the EU and NATO, and, if so, in what form and at what speed. This largely depends on the extent of its capacity and willingness to implement the necessary reforms.

I am saying this also against the backdrop of the current developments in the EU. After the negative outcome of referenda on the Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands, the EU is now going through a phase of critical reflection. This reflection centres on how we can advance the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty, but also concerns the Union’s political and geographical identity and hence its borders and its capacity to absorb new members.

We hope the Constitutional Treaty can be ratified swiftly. An effective European Union is also in Ukraine’s interests.

The European Union is the political response to the history of violent settlement of conflicts which culminated in the tragedy of the Second World War. The marriage of national interests produced lasting peace. Economic integration led to political stability.

This response was always designed to embrace the whole of Europe, despite the fact that the EU was initially restricted to Western Europe. From the beginning the EU envisioned an ever closer Union, surrounded by friends and neighbours, without dividing lines. The Union has never perceived itself as a closed shop. On the contrary, it promoted inclusiveness and permeable borders from the outset.

Germany and the European Union intend to help Ukraine participate as actively as possible in the stability and peace project known as Europe.

This goal was poignantly reinforced at the EU-Ukraine Summit last December. The EU’s recognition of Ukraine as a market economy is an important milestone on the way to achieving the goal. Incidentally, the United States followed suit a few days ago. Ukraine’s accession to the WTO will constitute another significant step.

The EU and Ukraine have elaborated an action plan in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy. It includes crucial steps towards integration in the common internal market as well as domestic reforms. These involve bringing norms and standards relevant to the economy into line with EU stipulations and helping to build stable and effective institutions founded on the rule of law and democracy. Furthermore, the Union is prepared to negotiate with Ukraine on further intensifying cooperation this year.

My remarks on the EU also apply to NATO – it is not a closed shop. We intend to help Ukraine move closer to NATO. Ukraine and NATO have enjoyed a special, close partnership since 1997. At the informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Vilnius last April, Ukraine and NATO agreed to engage in more intensive dialogue on Ukraine’s membership aspirations. NATO itself is in the throes of reform designed to make it better equipped to respond to new challenges. This will be another item on the agenda.

The form of future cooperation between NATO and Ukraine will depend on visible and measurable progress in reform implementation. Among other things, Ukraine will have to show that it can make a convincing contribution to the security of the alliance, its partnerships, obligations and institutions. It is essential that all efforts towards Euro-Atlantic integration are backed by the Ukrainian people and the Parliament.

Even at this early stage the EU and NATO need Ukraine as a pillar of stability in Eastern Europe. We need Ukraine’s constructive participation to ensure peaceful cooperation and prosperity in the region and to defuse conflict potential.

The success of Ukraine’s transformation may have a positive impact on Belarus. The coming elections in Belarus will be a litmus test for the willingness of Belarus’ leaders to stand in truly free elections.

The Republic of Moldova, the Black Sea region and the South Caucasus republics could benefit from positive developments in Ukraine. We value Ukraine’s role in the attempts to resolve the Transnistrian conflict and encourage all parties not to flag in their joint efforts.

The effect of Ukraine’s transformation on relations with Russia will have a bearing on the entire continent. I am sure that democracy and the market economy in Ukraine reflect a dynamic concept of stability which is also in Russia’s interests.

The historically close relations between Russia and your country have enriched European civilization and culture. They exert a strong influence on Europe’s political and security architecture. It is therefore not only in the interests of Germany, the EU and the Atlantic alliance that relations between Ukraine and Russia are as good as they can be; they will also do what they can to improve them.

Ukraine, with neighbours on both sides, will be able to serve as a bridge between the EU and Russia. A geographical fact can thus be used to political advantage. If it is to be effective, however, all sides must stop thinking in terms of traditional spheres of influence and categories of geopolitical competition.

New forms of cooperation between the EU, Ukraine and Russia can help us to overcome barriers and reinforce common ground. This also applies to the issue of energy supply. In this area we need a system of cooperative energy security in which all stakeholders – manufacturers, consumers and transit countries – sit down together at one table.

We could also promote cooperation in the expansion of trans-European transport and communication networks and the extension of free trade. In this context I could also envisage dovetailing the agreed four common spaces with the European Neighbourhood Policy for the modernization of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia. By so doing we could improve cooperation in the areas of the economy, internal and external security, research and education.

If we Europeans want to shape the future together, we must be aware of our history. We can only look to the future if we know our past.

This morning I visited the Holodomor Memorial. In Western Europe and Germany we are still too ignorant of the blood shed by the Ukrainian people during the genocide of the so-called kulaks and enforced collectivization.

Several years later National Socialist Germany commenced its war of destruction against the Soviet Union. The German occupation was the starting point for the extermination of the Jews. Babi Yar has become the symbol of barbarity. The battlefields of Kharkiv, the Donetsk Basin and on the Dnipro remain in our memories as sites of wartime aggression and massacre.

We must not repress this part of history. Instead, it should strengthen our motivation to promote quite different, peaceful interaction with one another.

The difficult, often painful, yet sometimes splendid history of Europe has brought Ukrainians and Germans together. We have shared cultural and political experiences.

In Germany the work of an artist such as Paul Celan reminds us of a flourishing cultural period in Bukovina with its mixture of Ukrainian, German, Austro-Hungarian, Romanian and Jewish influences. Many visitors to Czernowitz, Paul Celan’s home town, may ask whether all that has been irrevocably lost or whether such a cultural melting pot could be recreated in a new Europe. European unification gives us hope that such renewal may be possible.

Our shared history also unites us for the future.

Let us draw strength from our common history, our neighbourliness and the European vision to build a united Europe. I want to remind the younger people in this room that our generation is placing its hopes in you to shape our continent and our joint future.

Last week I was in Asia for political consultations. In Japan I was given a book with gems of oriental wisdom. One such gem was an allegory which we should adopt as our maxim as we work together to achieve our goal:

“The path only becomes a path
when we walk along it.
If we stand still,
it will become overgrown with weeds.”

Related content

Top of page