Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Volodymyr Ogryzko, following the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Foreign Ministers session

  • 03 Dec. 2008
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  • Last updated: 19 Jan. 2009 14:42

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General, NATO): Let me start by welcoming Minister Ogryzko, dear Volodymyr. Good to be on stage with you once again. And let me start with a brief readout of the NATO-Ukraine Commission that we just ended.

As with Georgia, NATO allies agreed that also for Ukraine all elements of the Bucharest decision of last April remain fully valid. I think that's also in this case a very important notion to start with. Ukraine has made progress, even if there is in Ukraine significant work left to do. That is exactly the reason why the allies have decided to provide further assistance to Ukraine in implementing those needed reforms as Ukraine progresses towards NATO membership.

Now the charter of the NATO-Ukraine Commission will have to be amended, we'll do that of course in close cooperation with our Ukrainian friends, to reflect the central role the NATO-Ukraine Commission will play supervising that process we set in hand at Bucharest. Let me explain the charter of the NATO Ukraine Commission dates from before Bucharest. So in the charter the Bucharest decisions could not be taken fully into account. That is what we're going to do to enable us in NATO to maximize our advice, our assistance and our support for those reform efforts through the NUC. And like I said a moment ago with the Georgian foreign minister also in the case of Ukraine we'll reinforce our liaison office in Kiev.

And under the NATO-Ukraine Commission, that is new, the so-called  annual national programmes will be developed to help Ukraine advance its reforms, and as the word says, I'm repeating myself, those programmes will of course be annually reviewed.

Now we also discussed in the NUC the progress Ukraine has made since Bucharest in the context of the Bucharest decision of intensive engagement at the high political level, and we've done that. We assessed the implementation of the what is still called annual target plan, and how to step up further reforms. For example through better funding and more coordination in Ukraine of its own reforms, and it goes without saying that we did also encourage Ukraine in the person of our friend Volodymyr Ogryzko to step up its efforts to explain what NATO is today and to diminish some of the misunderstanding about the Alliance still existing in Ukraine as we speak. And before I forget there was massive recognition and quite rightly so around the table of the fact that Ukraine participate in all, I repeat, all NATO-led operations and missions. And I do not know of any second partner of the Alliance, and there are many, to do so. So also publicly Volodymyr, here on stage, I want to commend you and Ukraine for that.

So in brief the elements of Bucharest were re-confirmed. Concrete steps were taken to step up our support to help Ukraine meet the NATO standards. I think there can be no misunderstanding that that is a strong political signal, it is a clear political signal, and with that conclusion, let me offer the floor to Minister Ogryzko. To you, Volodymyr.

VOLODYMYR OGRYZKO (Minister, Foreign Affairs of Ukraine): Dear Secretary General, dear Jaap, dear colleagues, I am really very glad to be here with you this morning.  Allow me to say a couple of words on what we have had today and what our ideas what we shall do in the future. Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED: It's not alcohol.

OGRYZKO: Only bottle of waters. At the outset I would like once again to reiterate that the ultimate goal of Ukraine is membership in NATO. We have chosen as you know this path many years ago, and this course towards membership is defined in our national legislation. But frankly speaking only this year we entered our direct way when at the Bucharest Summit, it was stated very clearly Ukraine will become a member of NATO. It's very logical that after that we need some very practical steps to go ahead. Now you... this should start a process of practical preparation to the membership. In other words very practical integration. And all practical preparations for membership will be very hard without allied experience, assistance and support.

Yesterday now NATO has taken a decision to maximize its advice, assistance and support for our relevant reforms, efforts directed at achieving high NATO standards in all spheres of our state development. With this aim, as Secretary General just pointed out, it was proposed to ask to develop annual national programme which as we understood was the most important practical part of the process of bringing today's (inaudible?) to NATO standards. We welcome this step forward and we are ready to further enhance practical work to achieve the ultimate goal of NATO membership as soon as possible. Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI (Spokesman, NATO): First question is there.

UNIDENTIFIED (National News Agency, Ukraine): My question is to both participants. It looks like everybody is happy now with the ministers’ decision because for example Russian media are celebrating the victory of a so-called cowards revolution, saying that NATO rejected MAP for Ukraine and Georgia. And Ukraine's side say that it's almost a victory because it's opened the way to the NATO membership. So who is misleading in that sense?

SCHEFFER: Let everybody draw and enjoy its own conclusions. (LAUGHTER.) And give me the right to do so on behalf of the NATO allies, and I just tried to say in my introduction what the ministers decided. And I think what was given here yesterday and today was a clear political signal, and for the rest I say again let everybody or every nation give his interpretation for that. I'll stick to mine.

OGRYZKO: I can only but to agree with the Secretary General. Probably it is another proof that those decisions were really very wise ones. And let us use all possibilities we have now to go ahead and to do what we have planned in Bucharest. This annual national programme for Ukraine will really be next very important and very practical step towards NATO, so why should we not celebrate this very wise and practical decision?

APPATHURAI: Next question is here.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible El Pais) anyone can do whatever or can get any whatever conclusions about this. The wording, very careful wording, ambiguous wording about the future of the relationship between NATO and these two countries. Could you tell us more or less when people that are happy and shouldn't be happy are going to have their smiles frozen? In other words is there any schedule, any idea of when Ukraine and Georgia will be members of NATO? Thank you.

SCHEFFER: No. That's the simple answer because this is a performance-based process. So you can never answer that question. You will agree with me that the conclusion is justified that membership is not around the corner. But the reason that there is no reason for freezing smiles is that as I said yesterday this train left the station at Bucharest and it's still moving. It didn't stop. And I'm telling you no news that in Bucharest and also in the run-up to this meeting there was debate between the allies about the exact route to follow. I mean it makes no sense to deny that; everybody knows that. It is after all an Alliance of 26, and hopefully next year 28 democracies who have their own opinions, who have their own history, who have their own geography. But I think the conclusion of that debate as so many times in NATO's history is a good one and is a positive one, and that's really a feeling not only shared by as you see by Ukraine and Georgia, but certainly also in the room by the NATO ministers. But again it was not always easy to come to this conclusion, I must admit that, but again NATO would not be NATO, and 26 sovereign nations in this Alliance if there were not discussion and debate. These are fundamental issues, very fundamental issues.

OGRYZKO: If I may add of course I can’t tell you exactly when Ukraine will be a NATO member state, but after today's decision we have really in our hands very practical and very pragmatic instrument how to go. If you will compare what we have had before and what we will have in the future you will see that now we have really very new and very practical instrument as we call it, annual national plan. We have just discussed with Secretary General that we will do our best to redraft our annual target plan which was proposed for 2009 into annual national programme because it will be more important. It will cover a number of areas which have not been covered by the annual target plan. So we have really good... we have done a really very good job. We have really very good prospects before us, so let's go. And then it will depend only on us when we will be ready, when we will be fit to this very high NATO requirements. After that we will come and say dear friends, we are ready. Please let us start negotiations about our membership.

APPATHURAI: That's all we have time for I'm afraid.

OGRYZKO: Thank you.