Author: Olga Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. Source: EUobserver
International unions are built and kept together with a particular aim: to create a common vision for the future and share all the advantages (and challenges!) on the way.
As a journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step, Ukraine's return to the European family began with the Association Agreement inking. We have walked a long way since then.
Today there are no doubts that Ukraine is a noticeable part of the EU economic and security systems. Ukraine's drastic transformations, its growing interconnectivity with the EU as well as EU internal changes enable us to talk about "Euro-integration 2.0".
A parallel is pretty transparent: while technologies develop and change for better with time, why should the EU-Ukraine affairs be limited with approaches of more-than-a-decade-age?
The principal moment of the 22nd EU-Ukraine summit was our common consent to conduct the comprehensive review of the achievement of the agreement's objectives and its update to enhance economic integration of Ukraine to the EU internal market.
That was - I am not afraid of these words - a historic decision which aims to broaden Ukraine's access to the EU "four freedoms": free movements of persons, goods, services and capital.
During the last several years not only the structure of Ukrainian economy or European legislation have changed – our relations are not the same as they were when the agreement came into force.
This is the reason for the relevant amendment to the trade part of the agreement and the modernisation of its sectoral part.
Today the EU's share in Ukrainian trade is about 42 percent while Ukraine holds only one percent in the EU's trade balance. This asymmetry shows the new point of efforts and potential growth for both sides.
This is not a secret that while Ukraine holds a position among agricultural export leaders, our export of industrial goods to the EU remains quite weak.
Therefore, the next milestone we are seeking to achieve is signing of the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Goods with the European Union (ACAA).
The EU preliminary expert mission to assess the readiness of Ukrainian legislation and infrastructure is in progress and we hope for an essential breakthrough this year.
As well as the EU is incomplete geographically without Ukraine, it is incomplete in its policies without Ukraine too.
We share a common destiny. That is why Ukraine tends to play an active role in the main EU initiatives that will shape the future of Europe.
We fully support and share the climate ambitions of the EU, being the first country to state clearly its desire to contribute to achieving the goals of the European Green Deal.
Europe will not become climate neutral without Ukraine - the biggest country on the continent - reaching net zero emissions. While every decision adopted in the EU has an impact on Ukraine, this impact will bounce back to the EU through our trade and economic relations.
Last year Ukraine submitted its proposals on development and implementation of policies within the Green Deal.
Our plan is to work on the areas of common interest of Ukraine and EU in order to achieve common goals.
Those are hydrogen infrastructure, transition of coal regions, further increase in energy efficiency and many others. Moreover, Ukraine's aspiration is to develop trade relations that will be subject to no new climate borders.
It's important to have a structured and regular dialogue in these areas to ensure further progress.
But it's not only the economy that will be discussed at the high level meetings in Brussels this week. In 2021, six Ukrainian soldiers have already died on the frontline.
Ukraine withstands Russia's aggression for almost seven years, and now we put every effort to uphold a fragile ceasefire despite constant provocations.
After visiting Moscow, the EU high representative Josep Borrell made an inevitable conclusion that "Russia does not want to seize the opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU".
Therefore, we urge European nations to increase sanctions' pressure and stop the Nord Stream 2 project that undermines European security and makes Ukraine vulnerable to further aggression.
The other issue is the Ukraine-EU partnership in Covid-19 vaccination.
The pandemic has shown with new emphasis the key importance of solidarity in fighting global threats. We are ready to work side-by-side with the EU for creating a common European security space, because as EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in her address to Ukrainian people: "we are one European family".
And it's more than geography. Ukraine and the European Union are "stitched" together with a common worldview and goals, with common values and future.
And the best thing we can do – to make these threads stronger.