The conference was jointly organized by the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Ukraine (NIDC), the NATO Liaison Office, the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Ukraine, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, in cooperation with the Parliamentary Committee for European Integration and representatives of civil society in Ukraine.
Participants included current and former high-level Ukrainian government and NATO officials, representatives of Ukrainian government bodies and agencies, prominent public figures, parliamentarians, think-tankers, representatives of non-governmental organizations from across Ukraine, and the media. A number of key speakers addressed the conference via video link.
Former NATO Secretary General, Dr Javier Solana, who was at the helm of NATO when the NATO-Ukraine Charter was signed, shared his recollections from that time. “Things are very different from those days, fifteen years ago, economies are very different… But I think that, in any case, the relationship between NATO and your country should be maintained, and not only maintained but, if possible, deepened,” he said.
Addressing the conference from NATO Headquarters, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Ambassador Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović noted: “Our relationship with Ukraine, has, since its inception been a rewarding and fruitful one. As we look to the future together, let us keep the founding pillar of our relations, the NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership and the values enshrined therein, as its guiding principle.”
“Ukraine has every right to be proud of its partnership with NATO as, in many cases, our relationship has become a model for other NATO partners to follow in their relations with NATO,” said Ambassador Ihor Dolhov, Head of the Mission of Ukraine to NATO, also speaking via live link from Brussels.
Progress and challenges
The Distinctive Partnership has brought mutual benefits. Ukraine has been a much-valued contributor to NATO-led operations over the years and bilateral cooperation has also benefited Ukraine in several ways. “NATO’s ongoing commitment to Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty has supported Ukraine in developing its own foreign and security policies as well as facilitated Ukraine’s internal reform process, particularly in the defence and security sectors,” said Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Ukraine Natalia Nemyliwska.
Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning, Ambassador Hüseyin Diriöz, emphasized some of the tangible results of cooperation. “In over fifteen years of our cooperation: more than 4,000 Ukrainian peacekeepers have participated in NATO-led operations; over 2,500 Ukrainian security sector officials have been trained; more than 5,000 former servicemen prepared for civilian life; and more than 15,000 tonnes of dangerous excess munitions disposed of,” he said.
Support for reform continues to be one of the top priorities of cooperation. Ambassador Dirk Brengelmann, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, underlined the importance of implementation of the Annual National Programme (ANP): “The ANP offers Ukraine a blueprint for reform and modernization. It helps Ukraine to reach the highest possible standards in all areas of government.”
Much has been achieved over the past 15 years, including in the area of public information. However, civil society representatives emphasized that there is still much work ahead as Ukrainian society and public opinion is still permeated with myths and outdated perceptions of NATO.