— The visit of President Viktor Yanukovych to Cyprus this week (November 8-9) is expected to leave an indelible mark on the history of our bilateral relations. What should we expect from the visit?
— The first official visit of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych to the Republic of Cyprus will be an important event in the history of our bilateral relations. First of all, it’s regarded as a visit in response to the official visit of the President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias to Ukraine, which took place in July, 2011. This gives reason to say that the political dialogue at the highest level between our two countries became systemic.
The official visit of Ukrainian President will logically crown the 20-years history of Ukrainian-Cypriot relations. It symbolizes the upward transition of our relationships to the new level, which also opens new horizons and promotes further intensive development of friendship and partnership between our countries.
In the context of current Cyprus Presidency of the EU Council the visit will also be a good opportunity to inform the Cyprus authorities and all European Community about the progress in implementation of internal reforms in Ukraine.
At the present time Ukraine undergoes complex transformation both in our domestic life and particularly in our relations with the foreign partners. There are 21 priorities of economic and social reforms that are underway or being launched. The reform agenda stretches from social entitlements to taxes, from health care to judiciary and from military to education. Together they represent the most comprehensive reform agenda since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.
— Bilateral relations between Ukraine and Cyprus have strengthened over the years. Can you give us an overall assessment of these relations and hoe you see them expanding in the future?
— Since the recognition of Ukraine by Cyprus in 1991 and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1992, our bilateral cooperation is developing in all fields and on the basis of principles of friendship, mutual understanding and trust. Today we have a solid base of our relations – the legal framework. We can say that we have created a qualitatively new system of relations, which fully meets the European Union legislation «Acquis communautaire». Number of bilateral documents have been concluded between Ukraine and Cyprus, which cover almost all aspects of cooperation between the two countries (political, economic, cultural etc.).
In the sphere of Ukrainian foreign trade and investment cooperation Cyprus plays a very important role. Cyprus remains the largest investor in economy of Ukraine. Both countries have a huge potential to further develop the mutually beneficial commercial relations.
I am confident that the Ukrainian-Cypriot relations become more pragmatic and mutually beneficial after the visit that contributes to overcome the crisis in both countries economics. The qualitatively new tool of achieving this pragmatism is introduction of the mechanism of the Intergovernmental Ukrainian-Cypriot commission on economic, scientific, technical and industrial cooperation. This tool is called to solve specific projects in economic, science, technical and industrial fields.
— Pillar of Ukraine’s foreign policy is its strategic course towards Europe. Can you tell us hoe the development and deepening of EU-Ukraine relations have been promoted during the Cyprus presidency of the EU Council?
— European integration remains the primary track of both internal and foreign policy of Ukraine. For us it is not only a foreign policy priority, but also a landmark for systemic reforms in the country. This idea is alive in Ukraine, as it unites the majority of Ukrainians. Moreover, in Ukraine it prevails. European integration is a driving force for most active actors of society - students, entrepreneurs, community activists. They don’t see the future of their country outside the EU.
On 30 March Ukraine and the EU turned an important page in our relations – initialed the Association Agreement. This is an outcome of the five-year intensive work of the negotiating parties. During the period we were searching for consensus decisions, adopting laws, ratifying the relevant conventions.
I am confident that we need to think strategically and understand the scale and potential influence of the Association Agreement on the internal developments in Ukraine. The Association Agreement isn’t the end of the way but the starting point of the European integration destination. This Agreement is a comprehensive political and practical tool for modernization of our country according to the EU standards.
I would like to underline that during the official visit to Ukraine in 2011 and negotiations with the President of Ukraine, the President Demetris Christofias declared that Cyprus is a true supporter of Ukrainian European integration aspirations. Of course, we understand that Cyprus Presidency of the EU can not be dedicated to Ukraine exclusively. Cyprus, in our opinion, competently and I would say wisely spent more than half of its Presidency. In a stormy sea of European financial and economic problems Cyprus successfully stands at the helm of the EU. The proof of Cyprus sincere support of Ukrainian European integration aspirations is the Cyprus Government's decision regarding introduction for Ukrainian citizens the electronic visas, which significantly liberalized visa regime between our two countries.
— Ukraine has steadfastly supported all efforts for a just, viable and lasting solution of the Cyprus problem. This stand is widely appreciated but can you elaborate on this?
— Since the beginning of the illegal division of the island Ukraine has been supported the side of the official Nicosia, the side of international law and eventually known resolutions of the UN Security Council addressed the "Cyprus issue". Ukraine, as well as other countries, do not accept the status of the divided island as normal, and do not accept the status of divided capital Nicosia in Europe. All this reminds the days of "cold war" that should not correspond to 21st century realities. Thus, Ukraine stands for the island union, sole democratic, prosperous, integrated Cyprus and this Kyiv’s position is weighted and constant.