Ferrero-Waldner: "Austria and the Ukraine in Europe"
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"Austria and the Ukraine in Europe"
Brief address by the Austrian Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
University of Lvov
5 June, 2003
Members of the academic senate,
It is a pleasure for me to speak to you today in this venerable university as the first Austrian foreign minister to visit Lvov. Your university is named after the famous poet Ivan Franko, who contributed so substantially to shaping the national identity of the Ukraine. Ivan Franko, by the way, started his scientific career at the University of Vienna, which is yet another example of the close mutual historic ties between the Ukraine and Austria.
This leads me to the topic of my brief address. Austria and the Ukraine are two states which are deeply rooted in Europe. At the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy with its nine official languages, twelve ethnic groups and a religious diversity which on the territory of today's Ukraine included the Greek-Catholic, the Orthodox and the Mosaic faith, something like a "Small Europe" already existed. After joining the European Union in 1995 the Republic of Austria has now become an integral part of a larger Europe. So far membership in the EU has been a blessing for Austria, since it represented an enormous impetus for the country's democratic political, economic and social developments. Consistent approximation to the European Union could also enable the Ukraine to benefit at some point from such a gigantic thrust, which opens the structures of a country, bringing in a breath of fresh air and making it fit for international competition.
However, EU membership did not just fall into Austria's lap. After we sent the application for membership - the famous letter - to Brussels back in 1989, it was to take another five years until the negotiations with the EU were successfully completed. During these negotiations Austria had to overcome numerous critical milestones, for instance in the fields of heavy-vehicle transit and agriculture. There it also became clear that the EU never gives anything away for free, and that the road to success is paved with consistent negotiations underpinned by positions based on well-founded facts. Based on the experience Austria gathered during these years I can give you one piece of advice: frustrations emerging in the course of tough negotiations with the EU must simply be swallowed. This also holds true for the phase of approximation to the EU the Ukraine is in at present. In discussions with the EU it is necessary to keep a cool head and, most importantly, not to dig in one's heels and stick doggedly to exaggerated or unrealistic perspectives.
That the Ukraine, too, has now definitely set out on the long path to "Europe" is a fact of huge importance for European policy, and some may not always have been sufficiently aware of this. The speed at which developments have taken place in the Ukraine since its independence is simply breathtaking. Much of the legacy left over from the Soviet era which initially hampered the country's progress has been overcome, and the Ukraine is already undergoing an active process towards the development of political democracy and a market economy. This is an impressive achievement and it is only logical that the Ukraine is now orienting itself towards European structures.
The Ukraine currently stands at the beginning of the path already taken by the candidate countries who will join the EU in 2004. They also had to set their sights on meeting the "Copenhagen Criteria", which call for a developed democracy, a functioning market economy and the adoption of the EU acquis. The Ukraine now has to start by successfully managing the first concrete phases, such as being granted market economy status by the EU and joining the WTO, and subsequently make its way towards the EU by making concrete progress and covering the individual stages of approximation. In this connection the full realisation of the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which still opens up a lot of potential, will certainly play an important role. In due course, the conclusion of a free trade agreement, as provided for in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, will then be possible, provided that the required progress has been made. Once the necessary solid level of integration has been achieved, the Ukraine can set her sights on more distant goals, including an association agreement and eventually also membership in the European Union. The Ukraine's aspirations to move closer to Europe are strongly supported by Austria, and we have also stressed the importance of positioning the Ukraine in Europe in our contacts with the relevant EU bodies.
The regions of the Ukraine formerly known as Galicia and Bukovina are playing a key role in the entire country's approximation to Europe. I am pleased to hear from many that the huge civil achievements made during the almost 150 years of common governmental tradition and the creative diversity of this region have contributed to raising this western Ukrainian region's European awareness to such a level that an almost general move towards Europe is discernible. History, which has linked this region to Europe for many centuries, is coming to life again. Let me take this opportunity to tell you that we Austrians are very appreciative of the positive memory the Galicians hold of the Austrian period and the fact that they have such a liking for us. It is really a pleasurable experience for an Austrian to visit Galicia today.
In the context of our prospering bilateral relations with the Ukraine, Austria is undertaking every effort to assist your country in reaching its huge European goal. I believe that the increasingly dense economic and cultural network we have woven through these relations promotes and communicates European agendas and provides an additional impetus for the increasing pace of the general orientation towards Europe. In this context the developments taking place in the Galician regions are playing a particularly significant role. The establishment of an air link between Vienna and Lvov, for instance - incidentally something that already existed back in 1918 - opens up a direct connection to the centre of Europe. In the middle of May Raiffeisenbank Ukraine opened a branch office in Lvov, thus offering the efficient services of a large European bank in the West Ukraine. The large number of activities launched by the Lvov branch of the Austria cooperation office for education, science and culture and the Austria Library in Lvov are bringing Austrian and thus truly European culture to this region. Regional partnerships established between regions in the western Ukraine and Austrian federal provinces - such as those between the region of Lvov and the Province of Styria, the region of Czernowitz and the Province of Carinthia, the region of Trans-Carpathia and the Province of Burgenland, and the region of Ivano-Frankivsk and the Province of Tyrol - are fully in line with the unstoppable trend towards forming regional centres which have grown within the EU in the course of its history.
The enlargement of the European Union in 2004 also represents a huge challenge for the entire Ukraine and particularly those regions bordering the candidate countries. The European Union is aware of the need to open up concrete perspectives to the Ukraine, including a new regulation of its relations and a further rapprochement to the EU. In this connection the New Neighbourhood initiative launched by the European Union certainly represents a solid basis. In contrast to concerns initially voiced by the Ukraine, I believe that it definitely differentiates between the Union's future neighbours and also opens up a wide range of concrete opportunities for cooperation between the Union and the Ukraine. As regards the Ukrainian border regions, concrete problems arising from the enlargement, such as those relating to visas and small-scale cross-border traffic and trade, will have to be tackled and solved in cooperation. Within the European Union Austria will always advocate regulating such issues in a way that takes the concerns of the border regions into consideration.
Concluding, I would like to emphasise once again that this visit to Lvov has been a huge pleasure for me. Today, after the great restoration efforts undertaken over the last few years, your beautiful and elegant city is presenting itself at its best. It is again breathing the flair of a genuine Central European metropolis. Lvov forms an integral part of a Central European reality, which - after the end of a totalitarian regime - is once again under our joint ownership as a great European cultural heritage. May the diverse and prosperous coexistence of peoples and cultures, which has had such a long tradition in this part of Europe, serve as a yardstick for a European renaissance of the Ukraine, in which the Ukraine's Galician regions will certainly play a trailblazing role. Let me assure you once again that Austria will always energetically advocate the Ukraine's cause within the EU.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to a lively discussion.