Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon, and welcome to the 2009 High-Level NATO-Ukraine Consultations. At the outset, let me welcome the Acting Minister of Defence, Mr. Valerii Ivashchenko, the First Deputy Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Mr. Stepan Havrysh, and the other representatives from Ukraine. I also welcome, of course, the Allied Ministers and senior officials who are here as well.
These annual informal meetings help to set the course for cooperation between NATO and Ukraine in the defence and security areas. They are a valuable forum for Allies and Ukraine to exchange views on key strategic policy issues on our common agenda. Finally, we will, together, assess Ukraine’s progress on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration and discuss how Ukraine can best prioritise its defence and security sector reform efforts, in a challenging economic environment.
The framework for our cooperation is clear. In 2008 at the Bucharest Summit NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed Ukraine’s aspirations for membership in NATO and agreed that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance. To reflect this spirit of deepening cooperation, Ukraine has developed its first Annual National Programme which outlines the steps it intends to take to accelerate internal reform and alignment with Euro-Atlantic standards.
That is important. And it is important not because NATO thinks so, but because it will help Ukraine to modernise, to the benefit of the Ukrainian people. And we are committed to support and assist Ukraine in that journey.
With this introduction, let me now invite the Ukrainian Acting Minister of Defence to deliver his opening remarks.