ROME, June 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
The eurozone crisis and worries over the future of Greece have not discouraged Ukraine from its determination to seek closer integration and future membership in the European Union, according to Konstantin Gryshchenko, the Foreign Minister.
Mr. Gryshchenko, speaking this week during a seminar on "Ukraine At The Crossroads" that was held at the Farefuturo Foundation in Rome, made clear that his country remains fully committed to forging closer ties across the EU. He said he understood the EU was concerned, as is Ukraine, with the fate of Greece and the challenges of the eurozone debt crisis.
Ukraine's destiny - explained Gryshchenko - lies inevitably in Europe and not in a post-Soviet integration structure.
"A new generation of Ukrainians has grown up. This generation cannot imagine the future of their country outside the EU. And they see their future based on EU values and principles, such as democracy and a market economy," said the Foreign Minister.
"Our parliament, with the full support of the opposition, recently approved electoral reforms based on recommendations from the European Union" continued Gryshchenko, who also mentioned a series of EU-style laws being introduced by Kyiv, ranging from anti-corruption laws to economic reforms and the awarding of tenders for the exploration of shale gas deposits by Chevron of the United States and Shell of Europe.
He was speaking at a conference at the Rome-based think-tank that was attended by members of the Italian Parliament, Government officials, diplomats, foreign policy experts, business leaders, and media figures.
Mr. Gryshchenko noted that with a 4 percent GDP growth rate last year, and nearly Euros 40 billion a year of trade with the EU, Ukraine "has much to offer the eurozone and the rest of Europe in coming years."
While Ukraine needs to maintain friendly relations with Russia, the minister said that an "EU plus Ukraine" equation would produce a very different result in future from an "EU minus Ukraine."
The Minister did not shy away from commenting on the conviction last year for abuse of office of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, saying that foreign critics might not be aware of the full story of the 2009 gas deal she signed, despite a fully documented rejection by her entire Cabinet of the costly deal.
"The 2009 gas deal between Tymoshenko's Ukraine and Putin's Russia was perhaps the most amazing energy deal in history," explained the Foreign Minister, who recalled the harsh terms of the contract. He said that despite it being against the law in Ukraine, as in other countries, to sign a deal that had been rejected by the Cabinet, Tymoshenko commited Ukraine to a deal that continues to damage the economy.
The deal, he said, "forced Ukraine to buy Russian natural gas at a price more than double the level paid today by Germany, to buy the maximum amount of gas, even if we don't need it, and it also forced us to pay a penalty fine if we don't buy the maximum amount at the maximum price." This deal, said Mr. Gryshchenko, committed Ukraine "for ten years and in a screaming violation of the government procedure without Cabinet approval, and after Tymoshenko's own energy company had made billions in partnership with Russia."
The Foreign Minister rejected claims of mistreatment and added that Tymoshenko "is not even in prison, but at Ukraine's best-equipped medical facility - getting her bad back treated by the best German physicians."
He reminded the audience in Rome that the European Court of Human Rights last month ruled that Tymoshenko was receiving "adequate medical treatment in an appropriate institution in Ukraine."
"All I am asking of our European friends," said the minister, "is that they learn the facts, understand the documented history of the Tymoshenko gas deal, and not rush to judgement, because this story is not as black and white as some would have you believe."
The Euro 2012 football games, he concluded, "are an opportunity for people-to-people contact, for normal, middle-class Europeans to see Ukraine and to see in Kiev a major European capital with a people committed to their European identity."
Following his visit to Rome, Gryshchenko concluded his two-day Italian visit in Trieste, where he chaired the 2012 meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the eighteen countries of the "Central European Initiative", whose Presidency is held by Ukraine this year for the first time.