It is a great pleasure to meet President Poroshenko again. I met him last year, even before I became President of the European Commission. I promised him that Ukraine would be my first bilateral visit outside the EU as President. I am a man of my word and today I keep that contract.
Today I want to talk to you about two other contracts. The contract the EU has with Ukraine. And the contract that Ukraine has with its people.
EU support for Ukraine
The EU supports Ukraine. We show solidarity with Ukraine. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.
Almost exactly one year ago we signed the political chapters of an Association Agreement. That is tangible proof of our promise to you.
We are supporting with macro-financial assistance. Just last week, we disbursed 250 million euro under existing programmes. And the EU has now also just agreed a further, third package of 1.8 billion euro. In total we have already mobilised 6 billion euro of the 11 billion euro support package we pledged last year.
And we are supporting in other ways.
Ukrainian scientists benefit from Horizon 2020, with equal access to our 80 billion euro research and development programme.
Ukrainian businesses and the Ukrainian economy benefit from trade preferences.
Those facing crisis benefit from €140 million in humanitarian aid.
Just yesterday I committed €70 million in support for Chernobyl. To ensure a complete return to a safe environment at the site of that devastating accident.
And today I can announce that small and medium sized businesses will also benefit. Today we offer a €110 million package for them. It will help in particular those areas most affected by the conflict.
Need for reform – examples of reform
That is our support. But it must be accompanied by one thing: reform. Economic and political.
That is what the government was elected for. It has already achieved much.
The Parliament has agreed new laws to reform the gas sector and restructure Naftogaz. It means a sector that is more modern and market-based, with more competitive prices, and more secure energy.
Looking at another area: corruption drains your economy, it eats into progress, it is an everyday tiresome blight on people's lives. It's time to end it – by prosecuting and punishing it, but also preventing it, through a new culture.
Again, here, there has been encouraging progress. You have a new anti-corruption package. You have appointed the Head of a new National Anti-Corruption Bureau. You are improving public financial management.
And alongside that, there has also been progress on a constitutional commission, and to decentralise.
Such initiatives are a promising start. But they are only a start; you must pursue and implement them. Public administration must be reformed, professionalised, depoliticised.
Building on the existing reforms, the energy sector must be made more transparent, competitive, and energy itself made more efficient.
Decentralisation can ensure the accountability of local government. The special status of Donbas offers an important solution to a conflict which is destabilising and deadly. Both need to happen: this year.
And that is not to mention reform on elections, the judiciary, the Public Prosecutor.
Reform must continue. It must be credible. It must be swift and sustained.
You keep reforming, and we will keep supporting. That is the contract we are making with you.
Contract between Ukraine and its people
But this is not just a contract between the EU and Ukraine. It is a contract between the Ukraine and its people. This is not about imposing: it is about empowering. Because these are not reforms for the benefit of your creditors or your international partners; but for your citizens.
The people of Ukraine have lived for too long in a country of transition: enduring decades of missed opportunities. They aspire and long to live in a modern, European country, in a stable economy, in a sound and fair political system. That is what they have protested for, that is what they have voted for, that is the government they have elected.
In closing I want to address three groups of people in particular, and what reform means for them.
First, for the people in eastern Ukraine. They suffer terribly: 6000 killed; 15,000 wounded; 2 million displaced; 5 million in need of humanitarian aid.
For them, a Kyiv Reform Conference may seem distant or irrelevant. But in reality, the only solution to this crisis is a political one. Reform is the only way to restore stability, to restore economic opportunity, to heal the wounds of a country in conflict.
Second, for those in Ukraine who call for closer ties with the EU. Reform will make that process easier. Ukraine is a European country. But only reform can make you converge closer to the European family.
Third, for those who were waving the EU flag on the Maidan. I know - by the way - that protest was not isolated; it is part of a long history of protest in this country, a testament to the courage, resolve and resilience of the people of Ukraine.
They were protesting not because they sought the intervention or interference of the EU. But because they saw the EU's values, and aspired to them. The values and virtues of dialogue and diplomacy; solutions that are peaceful and political; respect of human dignity, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
That is what reform can bring them.
After the Iron Curtain fell, we saw many countries reforming towards the EU: restoring European unity, reconciling its history and geography, releasing millions from tyranny into freedom. Today, those countries are open economies within our single market, equal partners in a union of free and fair nations.
This is a miracle of history.
The people on the Maidan, the people of Ukraine, have seen this path that others followed. They have seen the freedoms that others enjoy. They want to enjoy them too.
I want that reform to happen. And I want to support it. But ultimately, these choices lie not with the EU, but with Ukraine: with its people, its politicians, its institutions.
We will provide the means, if you provide the will.
That is how we will truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.