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Ukrainian Prism: Foreign Policy 2015Ukrainian Prism: Foreign Policy 2016Ukrainian Prism: Foreign Policy 2017 Ukrainian Prism: Foreign Policy 2018
2019 was a special year for Ukraine both in terms of foreign policy and in terms of domestic political processes. Strategically, Ukraine continues its advancement along the European and Euro-Atlantic paths, counteracts Russian aggression, and attempts to strengthen the foreign economic focus of its diplomatic efforts. However, the change of approaches and tactic with regard to the implementation of foreign policy, certain institutional and personal misunderstandings have caused the loss of momentum gained in 2017-2018. The overall assessments of how Ukrainian government offices implement their foreign policy goals have dropped to what they were in 2015-2016, not least due to a decline in political interest in interstate relations.
Experts from the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” and our colleagues from the top Ukrainian think tanks have analysed 50 directions of Ukraine’s foreign policy. This study gives an overview of 2019 and offers an opportunity to follow five years dynamics, highlighting the best examples of efforts concentration by Ukrainian government offices as well as, unfortunately, the emergence of the reverse trends.
Therefore, on behalf of the “Ukrainian Prism” team and our strategic partner, the Regional Office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Ukraine, I would like to invite you to peruse our study.
Hennadiy Maksak, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”
G -7 countries cooperation
В+ United Kingdom
2019 was somewhat quieter in relations between Ukraine and the UK as a result of the Brexit turbulence and the long election period in Ukraine. Still, this only affected the intensity of contacts, not their quality. Therefore, they are expected to intensify again in the first half of 2020.
Ukraine’s relations with the UK in 2015-2019 can be described as a success story. The UK has consistently supported Ukraine in the bilateral format since 2014 (reforms and security cooperation), in the EU (including in the context of implementing and compliance with sanctions), as well as in various international platforms. Brexit has undermined the part of the EU member-states critical of Russia and the influence of supporters of further EU and NATO expansion eastward. Apart from that, the turbulence triggered by Brexit in the UK distracted it from Ukraine and had a negative impact on the intensity of contacts in the past two years. From the positive perspective, the new solidarity and experience of cooperation gained in 2014-2019 allow the two sides to establish new strategic goals.
In 2019, Italy continued to support the European integration aspirations and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Italy does not recognize the annexation of Crimea and officially supports the introduction of sanctions against the Russian Federation. Security, military, cultural and humanitarian cooperation formed an important dimension. There was no increase in activity on the part of Ukraine, except for some cultural initiatives at the end of 2019.
Political and economic relations between Ukraine and Italy have remained quite asymmetrical over five years. The change of governments both in Ukraine and in Italy did not facilitate co-operation and understanding of the strategic interests of both countries. Although Italy is home to one of the largest Ukrainian communities in the EU, its potential for engagement has been minimal.
A strategic vision for further interaction for the next period after the implementation of the Roadmap for Cooperation between Ukraine and Italy for 2016-2017 has not been presented. Despite the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Parliaments of Ukraine and Italy in 2017, interparliamentary interaction was low until 2019.
Although exports of goods and services to Italy did not increase significantly from 2015 to 2019 (from USD 2.11 billion in 2015 to USD2.54 billion in 2019), imports doubled up (from USD1.01 billion to USD2.15 billion). The withdrawal of the Italian Unicredit bank from the Ukrainian market in 2016 was quite painful for Italian investors, which did not prompt more small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in cooperation with Ukraine. In addition, the great potential for the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, which existed in the areas of industrial cooperation and investment cooperation, was not used.
Positive developments took place in late 2019, when a joint Ukrainian-Italian photo project on the events in Donbas and a film about Markiv allowed the Italian society to understand for the first time that there was a war in eastern Ukraine.
2019 was extremely favourable for the development of cooperation with Canada. Various forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, including high-level visits and especially the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto, helped to enhance the political, security and investment relations. The Free Trade Agreement contributes to the intensification of trade relations and an entry of Ukrainian goods to the Canadian market. Canada traditionally continued to support domestic reforms in Ukraine, particularly in public administration and defence sectors. This allows the two countries to move to a long-term planning and setting common priorities in bilateral relations.
Bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Canada improved significantly over the past five years, most notably in the areas of security, economic, trade, consular and healthcare. Both countries recognized the priority of Ukraine’s cooperation with Canada where unique consensus has emerged in support of Ukraine from all key political players. Starting with S. Harper's Government, Canada consistently adhered to the sanctions against Russia and provided material and technical assistance to Ukraine, which amounted to about USD 800mn over the five years.
According to the State Statistics Bureau of Ukraine, total trade turnover of 2015-2018 almost doubled from USD 236mn in 2015 (exports to Canada at USD 30 mn, imports at USD 206 mn) to USD 411 mn in 2018 (exports to Canada at USD 78 mn, imports at USD 333 mn). The Free Trade Area launched in 2017 boosted this growth. However, in 2019 trade turnover fall till USD 280.2 mn due to the Canadian import.
Germany remains the most important political partner of Ukraine. Official Kyiv counts on Germany’s support for keeping the pressure of sanctions on Russia and for solving the armed conflict in Donbas in the framework of the Normandy Four. Scheduled for 2020, the finalization of Nord Stream 2 remains one of the most problematic issues in the bilateral relations. With Germany’s mediation, Ukraine has managed to sign an agreement on gas transit from Russia through the Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s priorities also include the attraction of German investment and Germany’s assistance in rebuilding the war-damaged infrastructure in the East.
Ukraine’s foreign policy cooperation with Germany in the past five years predictably focused on the solution of the conflict with Russia (cooperation within the Normandy Format and the Minsk process). Another focus was on countering the construction of Nord Stream 2. In 2015-2019, the level of the political dialog was very intense on the top level (president, prime minister, foreign affairs minister). The Ukrainian Embassy in Germany promoted Ukrainian interests proactively, including with public diplomacy. Despite the fact that Germany is not listed among Ukraine’s strategic partners in the legal framework, the role of Germany in supporting territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, mediation between Ukraine and Russia in the Normandy Format, provision of macro-financial and humanitarian assistance is unprecedented. In the past five years, all political forces in Ukraine have been unilateral in pointing an important role of Germany in the support of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and condemnation of the annexation of Crimea.
Numerous projects of technical assistance are implemented for sustainable economic development, energy efficiency, decentralization and democracy building. In 2016, the joint German-Ukrainian Trade and Industrial Chamber was launched. Starting from January 1, 2016, when the DCFTA with the EU came into effect, bilateral trade has been developing. For now, the key products of Ukrainian exports to Germany include electric machinery, agricultural products, clothing and knitwear, ore and slag, metals and wood.
Considering the priority nature of cooperation with the United States, political interest in this direction was demonstrated at all levels, while foreign policy activities focused on a security dimension of cooperation, as well as on its political, economic and energy components. Despite the deep involvement and existing strategic vision, its results were overshadowed by the fact that in 2019 Ukraine found itself at the epicentre of the domestic political scandal in the USA. Nevertheless, in 2019, the USA continued to support Ukraine and help it to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It insisted on the need to ensure the release of Ukrainian political prisoners and the return of control over occupied Crimea to Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia were extended and the new ones were introduced over Nord Stream 2. Assistance to Ukraine from the US defence budget for 2020 was increased to USD 300 million.
Over the period in question, relations with the USA have always been of priority and strategic significance to Ukraine. This is reflected in the main strategic documents as well as in the statements and speeches by Ukraine’s high-ranking officials, who have always emphasized the leading role of the United States in supporting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression (the US Crimea Declaration reaffirming its rejection of Russian’s annexation of Crimea was important in this regard). There was an ongoing active dialogue with the US counterparts, the sides maintained intergovernmental and interagency contacts. The US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission resumed its work in an updated format in 2018.
Ukrainian diplomats focused their main efforts on security issues, in particular the supply of defensive weapons (the supply of lethal defensive weapons was authorized in 2017, the sale of the Javelin systems was approved in 2018 and 2019), extension of sanctions against Russia. Considerable attention was paid to sectoral cooperation, in particular in the energy sector.
However, Ukraine’s aspirations to become a major non-NATO ally and to involve the USA in negotiations on Donbas conflict have not been fulfilled.
The trend that has shaped Franco-Ukrainian relations over the past five years, namely the priority of issues related to the resolution of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, peaked in 2019, when matching goals resulted in active communication and effective cooperation between the two presidents, and culminated with a Normandy summit. Economic and investment cooperation is advancing very slowly. Ukraine has so far failed to develop a strategic approach to its relations with France.
Ukrainian-French relations intensified from 2014 to 2019, under the influence of Russian aggression, in connection with Paris’s initiatives to boost its diplomatic involvement on behalf of the EU in general and in the Eastern European affairs in particular. Naturally, this intensification was primarily concerned with the conflict resolution; however, there was a real chance to use the “transfusion effect” for a new qualitative leap in bilateral relations. This chance was lost. Ukraine and France continue to have diametrically opposite strategic visions on the prospects for Ukraine's integration into the EU and NATO, on the role of the Russian Federation in the EaP and the European security architecture, and on the return to the “Russia first” logic in general. Despite the steady growth of economic exchanges and investment, there is a lack of initiatives and steps aimed at expanding the French presence, which has a significant impact given France’s efforts to economise diplomacy.
Despite a rather reserved strategic stance on Japan and an openly low political interest in Ukraine, public offices have traditionally demonstrated a high level of engagement in dialogue on security, use of nuclear and renewable energy, reforms implementation, and healthcare. Japan has consistently supported Ukraine in the framework of international cooperation and bilaterally within numerous investment projects.
The reporting period is characterized by the steady development of economic relations: an increase in general trade, implementation of investment projects, and active cooperation at the government level. As part of the Kusanone programme, Japan implements projects for the development of medical and educational institutions, material assistance to the occupied territories, and provides technical assistance under JICA. The systematic support for Ukrainian diplomatic initiatives in the international arena contributes to the fruitful implementation of Ukraine's foreign policy priorities. Japan was one of the first to condemn Russian occupation and to support sanctions.
EUROPEAN INTEGRATION B+
A- European Union
Over five years, Ukraine has come a very long and constructive way towards the EU but failed to persuade the EU to consolidate the prospect of its membership in any binding document. However, at the practical level, the EU provides all necessary and possible assistance to Ukraine: it signed the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area; introduced visa-free travel; approved and extended on a regular basis four levels of sanctions against the Russian Federation over the occupation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine, etc.
Ukraine, for its part, continues to prove its European choice by amending the Constitution, setting up the Government Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, introducing the post of Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, appointing deputy ministers for European integration, developing numerous roadmaps and action plans on the content and deadlines of deliverables, as well as incorporating EU norms and standards in Ukrainian legislation.
Ukraine's economic cooperation with the EU is based on the DCFTA and has a positive dynamic, although the growth of Ukrainian exports has been slowing down in recent years. The country maintains political unity on European integration and proper institutional cooperation. The energy sector, the digital market, customs policy and technical regulation are turning into real priorities for Ukraine's bilateral cooperation with the EU. Based on the results of 2019, a position was elaborated regarding the need not only to implement the AA by both parties, but also to revise its provisions.
At the end of 2019, the vacuum of understanding of the foreign policy vision for European integration by the new Ukrainian authorities gradually gave way to cautious optimism that the chosen instruments, methods, tone of discussion, and the promises implementation pace were correct. Although it is too early to draw unambiguous conclusions, official Kyiv’s actions currently evoke more approval and support from the EU, giving it carte blanche to implement reforms and receive additional support under the “more for more” formula.
Positive trends in the development of economic cooperation between Ukraine and the EU continued in 2019. Following the presidential and parliamentary elections, the country has maintained political unity with regard to European integration and proper institutional cooperation. The EU is Ukraine’s largest trade partner and the volume of foreign trade turnover continues to grow. Ukraine’s deeper sectoral integration and a revision of the Association Agreement with regard to the DCFTA are even more topical now.
B Eastern Partnership
The Eastern Partnership has regained the lost focus following the completion of the current political cycle and due to the need to determine its future format. Although the anniversary summit was postponed to the next year, the structured consultation on the future of the EaP held by the European Commission gave a significant boost to the Ukrainian stakeholders’ activity. Continued implementation of the "20 Deliverables by 2020" and public monitoring of this process have shown that this approach is not ambitious enough for Ukraine. The strategic vision that Ukraine is promoting together with Georgia and Moldova is that the track of the three countries that signed the Association Agreements should be separated in order to bring them closer to the EU faster. The new A3 format was filled with quality content as a result of numerous events and consultations held throughout the year.
Despite changes in the EaP, including, above all, the evolution of the initial format into “20 Deliverables by 2020”, Ukraine’s position that it is secondary to the bilateral dimension of cooperation with the EU has remained unchanged over the five years. Ukraine has been actively using opportunities provided by the Eastern Partnership. The year of 2019 was marked by the emergence of a clear position on the need to separate the track of the three AA signatory states in order to bring them closer to the EU faster.
B- European Energy Community
During 2019, Ukraine and the Energy Community worked closely to implement a new model of the electricity market in Ukraine, to separate and certify the gas transmission system operator, and to fulfil other commitments within the framework of the energy sector reform. The launch of the electricity market became an important achievement, but it still requires considerable work to deregulate and certify the transmission system operator. While a creation of the independent GTS operator took place in quickest-ever time and helped to keep a transit role, the reduction in physical volumes of gas transportation requires a revision of the state's gas strategy. Elaboration of an integrated energy and climate plan for 2030, development or update of the second phase of the Energy Strategy by 2025, resolution of the RES problem and implementation of the European Green Agreement approaches in energy are the next timely issues.
The dynamics of the five-year relationship between Ukraine and the EU is positive. During this period, they managed to launch the natural gas and electricity markets, to reform the NKREPK, to implement most of the measures of the first stage of the Energy Strategy of Ukraine for the period until 2035, to ensure high dynamics of energy resources (gas and electricity) export-import operations with the EU Member States, to launch the Energy Efficiency Fund. Ukraine became one of the regional leaders in terms of renewable energy introduction. At the same time, the political populism of the Ukrainian authorities in keeping price preferences for certain categories of consumers remains an obstacle to large-scale implementation of the European energy legislation, and the oligarchic influence dominance distorts competition and increases energy resources costs for the national economy.
Ukraine and the EU failed to use the potential of working together to prevent the implementation of Russian bypass energy projects. Also, the EU did not become a platform for advocating Ukraine's interests in the EU institutions in the implementation of the Association Agreement in terms of coordination of decisions on infrastructure projects of common interest.
B+ EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION
In 2019, Ukraine-NATO cooperation continued at all levels with the participation of both presidents and governments. Ukraine’s integration into NATO and reform of the security sector in accordance with NATO standards remained a priority. The most important development was the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (concerning the strategic course of the state for Ukraine’s full membership in the EU and NATO). However, compared with previous years, the level of results and activities has decreased.
Over the past five years, Ukraine and NATO have cooperated at the high level, which included political dialogue, practical cooperation, advisory and financial assistance. Despite the different views of individual political parties represented in the VRU, amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine regarding the strategic course for NATO membership were adopted.
The establishment of the post of Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and relevant coordination offices and commissions marked a significant progress in institutional cooperation. The Cabinet of Ministers, the MFA, the MoD, the General Staff, the VRU and other institutions responsible for individual areas of cooperation were involved in the dialogue at all levels.
Cooperation has been taken to a new level thanks to the launch of NATO Trust Funds for Ukraine, the decision on the Comprehensive Assistance Package, advisory support for security and defence reform, the transformation of the annual national programmes, and continuous operational exchange of experience, in particular in combating hybrid and cyber threats.
In 2019, despite the change of political elites in Ukraine, they managed to keep good contacts with Belarus at the highest level, as well as systematic work at the level of the Foreign Ministries. The Forum of Regions of Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus traditionally became the main event of the year and a platform for formal negotiations and business contracts. Trade cooperation remained a priority area of cooperation.
During five years, Ukraine's foreign policy towards Belarus underwent a significant evolution caused by Russian aggression. As the Republic of Belarus is in a strong orbit of the Russia's influence in political, security and economic terms, Kyiv had to take a special approach. Belarus was and still remains a strategically important partner of Ukraine in the economic and fuel-and-energy spheres. Stable personal contact between the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus allowed preserving an atmosphere of trust despite not always friendly public discourse. Therefore, it is not surprising that in most cases political interest among politicians in Ukraine in Belarus was provoked rather by the negative context than by the positive practices of cooperation.
Despite Belarus' strong involvement in Russian integration projects, official Minsk declares support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Since 2014, Minsk served as a venue for negotiations in the format of the Trilateral Contact Group of Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE.
In the economic sphere, bilateral cooperation is characterized by active inter-industry contacts, transition to medium-term projects and road maps, and a gradual increase in turnover. At the same time, trade restrictions on strategic export groups from Ukraine, predominantly provoked by Russia's destructive policies through the economic instruments of the Eurasian Economic Union, cannot be fully resolved.
Ukraine’s foreign policy on Georgia in 2019 did not walk away from the strategic line of bilateral relations focused on strengthening European and Euro-Atlantic integration. With new political leaders both in Ukraine and in Georgia, the two countries mostly used accomplishments of the previous two years to strengthen political ties in bilateral cooperation and in solving common challenges — restoration of territorial integrity undermined by Russia’s aggression.
Ukraine’s foreign policy on Georgia evolved from passive cooperation to strategic partnership in 2015-2019. Some domestic political differences turned out to be smaller than common interest in implementing foreign policy priorities on integration with NATO and the EU, restoration of territorial integrity and resistance against Russia’s aggressive policies in the region. These factors were the main ones shaping the strengthening of political and humanitarian ties, diplomatic contacts (especially since 2017). Trade and economic indicators of bilateral cooperation demonstrated slight growth in 2015-2018 and declined in 2019. The number and the quality of measures on all aspects of bilateral relations grew annually.
2019 saw a decline in bilateral activities. There were no contacts at the level of parliaments, and interaction between governments shrank compared to previous years. The existing contacts at the top level and the completion of work on the free trade zone offset this to a certain extent. The first visit of Israel’s Prime Minister to Ukraine in 20 years ended with the signing of a number of bilateral agreements, and generally was an evident of deeper cooperation prospects.
In the past five years, negotiating the free trade zone was the key foreign policy task of Ukraine on Israel. The respective ministries (MFA, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ministry of Agricultural Policy, Ministry of Infrastructure etc.) coordinated their work on this, regulate meeting of the interagency commission on trade and economic cooperation took place, leading to the signing of the Free Trade Agreement in 2019 and its ratification by the Ukrainian side. Technology, healthcare, education, infrastructure and investment remained other important spheres of cooperation. In 2015-2019, contacts on the level of the two countries’ leaders took place. Ukrainian politicians demonstrated interest in Israel, including through regular mentions of the importance of Israeli experience in state building in a difficult security context and of its military experience in general.
In 2019, Ukraine’s policy on the Islamic Republic of Iran narrowed down somewhat as a result of two factors. One was an application of a more comprehensive package of US economic sanctions against Iran back in 2018. The other factor was Iran’s political line, which sometimes showed lack of solidarity with Ukraine’s political position on the international arena.
Overall, the summary of Ukraine-Iran relations in the past five years shows that bilateral cooperation has serious potential. This includes energy, machine building, agriculture and services. However, the situation around Iran’s nuclear program (including the EU and the US sanctions before 2015) and the withdrawal of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018 seriously undermine this potential. Despite the attempts to maintain relations with Iran beyond the position of the third parties, the US policy was the stumbling block impossible to bypass financially or politically.
Ukraine’s relations with Iran intensified somewhat in 2015-2016 after the signing of the JCPA and the lifting of most economic sanctions from Teheran. It was in 2016 that Ukraine’s Strategic Vision on Relations with Iran was adopted and then-MFA P. Klimkin visited Teheran. As a result, 2017 saw the highest trade between Ukraine and Iran (USD 622.7mn) and proactive work of the joint intergovernmental Ukraine-Iran Commission for Economic and Trade Cooperation. In 2019, trade dropped almost threefold compared to 2017.
Political interest in Ukraine-China relations somewhat decreased in 2019. There were no breakthroughs in institutional cooperation between government offices. The fact that a new ambassador to China was not appointed for over half a year marked a significant drawback. As a result, while economic indicators improved, there was no visible progress in political relations.
In general, the dynamics of relations with China has been heterogeneous over the last five years. Shortly after the Revolution of Dignity, Ukrainian diplomats made efforts to resume bilateral cooperation. The peak was reached in 2017 when Vice Premier of China Ma Kai visited Ukraine. However, the dynamics subsided again soon. The fact that the leaders of Ukraine and China have not exchanged visits over the last five years, while their bilateral meetings have been limited to the side-lines of international events, constitutes a significant gap in relations. Filling this gap and establishing a trusting relationship at the highest level could be the key to a significant improvement in relations.
Lithuania continues comprehensive support to Ukraine across platforms and spheres. MPs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania established such groups as ProUkraine and Group of Friends of Ukrainian Crimea. The change of presidents in both countries did not affect the intensity of the top-level dialogue — this was reflected in the visit of Ukraine’s President to Vilnius and the agreements accomplished in security and defence throughout the year.
International relations between Ukraine and Lithuania offer a good illustration of virtually perfect interstate interaction, their dynamics intensifying throughout these five years. The illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine were followed by the record-breaking reinforcement of bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Lithuania. Lithuania continued supporting Ukraine both bilaterally and via the EU, demonstrating maximum unanimity in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as sanctions against Russia.
In response to the request of the Ukrainian government, Lithuania was the first state to provide military assistance followed by humanitarian and other types of support. These included treatment and rehabilitation for hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers. In these five years, in Ukraine, Lithuania was referred to as “an advocate of Ukraine’s European aspirations,” “friend” and “strategic partner” — all these references were confirmed with real actions from Lithuania. At the same time, Lithuania has always been consistent in pushing the Ukrainian government to intensify reforms and make progress in fighting corruption.
The dynamics of relations between Ukraine and Moldova slowed down substantially in 2019. In particular, there was a decline in the level of political interest, and there were no breakthroughs in institutional cooperation. Moldova had a greater interest in Ukraine than other way around. Older problems have added to the new ones, including the risk of Moldova’s U-turn towards Russia, while the results achieved do not match the declared ambitions and the level of activity.
Overall, the positive and vibrant dynamics of bilateral relations between Ukraine and Moldova of recent years slowed down significantly in 2019. Probable causes may include the political turbulence in the Republic of Moldova, as well as the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. At the same time, a number of issues in bilateral relations - the settlement of property disputes inherited after the Soviet Union, the final demarcation of the state border, and the functioning of the Dniester hydroelectric complex – have remained unresolved for a long period of time regardless of the level of intensity of bilateral contacts.
In 2019, the relations between Poland and Ukraine saw some positive transformations. Ukraine unblocked for Poland the search of the burial sites of the Poles in Ukraine from the WWII period, allowing intensifying contacts on the top level including new President Zelenskyy. While differences in interpretations of historical events remain in place, the main focus in bilateral relations has shifted towards the implementation of economic and infrastructural projects, as well as strategic elements of security cooperation.
In 2015-2019, Polish-Ukrainian relations remained strategic — mostly in the context of supporting Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and solidarity in countering Russian aggression. Warsaw supported Ukraine as an Eastern Partnership partner-state and a signatory of the Association Agreement with the EU in the V4 and the EU formats.
The change of the political team in Poland and the election of Law and Justice political party made an issue of historic memory more topical, but that did not find understanding in Ukraine. Given the lack of compromise on historical issues, the relations on the high level between the Presidents of Ukraine and Poland deteriorated, affecting the work of bilateral institutions and the dynamics of dialogue. At the same time, Poland gradually gained weight as a trade partner as Ukraine reoriented its trade flows, getting into the top five trading partners for Ukraine.
Political dynamics in Ukraine-Romania relations subsided to some extent in 2019 compared with previous years. The second half of the year also saw a decrease in political interest. The implementation of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” remains a controversial issue. In the meantime, relations in other sectors were at the level of 2018, although without significant results. A drop in dynamics can be explained by the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine and the presidential elections in Romania.
In general, recent years have seen a noticeable revival in bilateral relations and active political dialogue. Romania has supported Ukraine on its path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and relations have essentially reached the level of strategic partnership. Differences in the views on Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” did not interfere with military and political cooperation.
Relations with Slovakia remain focused on political and diplomatic activities given the special role of this country in political processes in Central and Eastern Europe. The bilateral agenda does not have problematic issues as most strategic interests of the two countries are similar, including those on reverse supply of gas, prevention of Nord Stream 2 construction, the need to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, etc. However, limited trade, economic or military-political cooperation and the absence of major agreements of strategic nature prevent full-scale fulfilment of the potential in bilateral relations.
In the past five years, the dialogue between Ukraine and Slovakia was stable and predictable regardless of the change of government teams and heads of states. Slovakia proved a reliable partner for Ukraine in the past years, solidarizing with it in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea and sanctions against Russia, including by organizing reverse delivery of gas to Ukraine — thus helping Ukraine ensure its energy independence from Russia. Despite controversial views of some political leaders in Slovakia (former Prime Minister R. Fico or Parliament Speaker A. Danko), the country under the last government resisted swinging the state by the revisionist forces, and Ukraine preserved official support. The key task in the bilateral dialogue now is the transfer from statements about absence of conflicts or problems in bilateral relations to the start of work on strategic topics (other than energy) by the authorities of both states, which the Slovak or Ukrainian governments have not addressed before systematically.
In 2019, Turkish-Ukrainian relations developed mainly at the working level, in particular in the economic and military-technical sectors. However, the dynamics of political dialogue and the official rhetoric of the Turkish leadership have changed considerably. The main reasons for this were the lack of a strategic vision of the development of bilateral relations on the part of Ukraine and the general changes in Turkey's foreign policy, which led to its rapprochement with Moscow and striving to avoid any steps in support of Ukraine that could impede close cooperation with the Russian Federation.
After the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, Turkey assumed a special role among Ukraine’s foreign policy partners. Whereas previously Ankara was perceived primarily as an important trade and economic partner, after 2014, it became a key actor in the Black Sea security. Turkey has not recognised the annexation of Crimea, consistently campaigned in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and traditionally paid great attention to protecting rights of Crimean Tatars.
On the other hand, despite its status of a strategic partner, expectations that Turkey would play a role of a potential counterweight to Russia in the region proved unjustified. Ankara did not align itself with sanctions against Russia, and the official rhetoric of the Turkish leadership has changed over five years from the harsh condemnation of Moscow to calls for restoration of the inclusive dialogue aimed at bolstering trust in the Black Sea region. Currently, Ukrainian-Turkish relations are still subject to objective restrictions because of Turkey’s growing economic and military-political cooperation with Russia.
After a significant decline in 2014-2015, trade has shown steady growth after 2017. At the same time, the bilateral trade surplus has been rapidly decreasing (by 30-50% annually). At present, the trade turnover amounts to almost USD 5 billion and has not reached the 2008 pre-crisis level of USD 8 billion.
The election of Ukraine’s new president and parliament and the change of government to some extent softened the tension in relations between Kyiv and Budapest and shaped inflated expectations of a quick ending of the conflict around the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, and of a reset in the bilateral relations. At the end of 2019, however, the bilateral relations are stagnating on the same crisis and conflict level as shaped in 2017-2018.
Over the past five years, the Hungarian vector of the Ukrainian foreign policy enjoyed a lot of political interest and reactive policy due to the ongoing dispute. There is good ground for a change in bilateral relations now — and such windows of opportunity emerged regularly in the past five years despite the serious disputes over Ukraine’s education and language laws. This dispute between Kyiv and Budapest has lasted for two years now, involving NATO, the EU, the OSCE and other influential international players. It affects the whole range of the bilateral dialogue. This situation is caused by the lack of expertise on Hungary in Ukraine, the absence of a strategic vision for its development, and of an understanding how to turn Ukraine’s dialogue with Hungary into a success story.
B- Czech Republic
In 2019, Ukraine’s relations with the Czech Republic had a positive dynamics both at the level of political dialogue and in the context of trade and economic cooperation. Bilateral relations were partly affected by the change of the domestic political situation in both countries. For the first time in 11 years, Czech Prime Minister A. Babiš came to Ukraine on an official visit. A compromise emerged in solving problematic issues, for example with the “Yamburg Debt”.
Since 2015, despite the support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by the Czech Republic, there was no significant interest in developing bilateral relations neither in Kyiv nor in Prague. The political position of Czech President M. Zeman did not contribute to a more fruitful political dialogue as he stands on the pro-Russian position. In 2019, Ukraine-Czech relations intensified seriously to develop bilateral political dialogue and cooperation. Czech PM visited Ukraine for the first time in 11 years, in addition to the strengthening of business contacts formats development. In 2017, the Czech Republic lifted all barriers for military and technical cooperation with Ukraine. In the past five years, EUR15mn was provided to Ukraine to support reforms, educational and humanitarian projects. Cooperation is widespread on the level of civil society organizations. Despite the growing trade and economic cooperation, there are few infrastructure or investment projects so far. Ukraine has no contacts with the Czech Republic on historical memory or the rights of national minorities, yet the issue that needs to be solved is the payment of the “Yamburg Debt” by Ukraine whereby Ukraine has to find ways to cover its debt liabilities to the Czech Republic.
POLITICAL RELATIONS C-
2019 did not become a year of positive changes in Ukrainian-Russian political dialogue. Although the new political authorities promised a quick end to the war and re-establishment of pragmatic relations with Russia among its election slogans, there were no qualitative changes in bilateral relations. For the most part, the new authorities lack a holistic view of a new model of political dialogue with Russia, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
ECONOMIC COOPERATION C+
Economic cooperation with Russia received less attention compared to other issues in 2019. By contrast to 2018, new lines of conflict did not emerge in this sphere in 2019. Sanctions are still in place and cooperation is shrinking, Russia is losing a position of Ukraine’s key trade partner. Yet, Ukraine is still highly dependent on imports from Russia. Ukraine does not have a strategic vision or systemic policy in this area. Just like before, Ukraine’s policy is reactive.
ENERGY RELATIONS C
In 2019, energy relations of Ukraine and the Russian Federation were marked with several significant events, such as hydrocarbons’ import taxes review aimed at reduction of dependence on the monopoly supplier, opening of the domestic electricity market for imports from the Russian Federation and Belarus, payment of debt according to the decision of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, signing of a 5-year contract on the Russian gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transmission network, and a fierce political struggle over the Nord Stream-2 project, which resulted in its implementation delay.
C Asia-Pacific Region
In 2019, cooperation with countries in the region was generally at the same level as in 2018. Institutional cooperation and strategic vision hardly changed. The MFA was in active political dialogue with the Republic of Korea and Malaysia. Also noteworthy was the work of embassies in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia. In general, there is a lack of strategic vision for cooperation with the region. There were no high-level meetings with representatives of the countries of the region in 2019.
Ukraine's foreign policy was revitalized at various levels on the Asia-Pacific region in the past five years. The greatest focus was on trade and economy, cooperation in the military and technical spheres. Despite limited resources, Embassies of Ukraine in the region actively worked to build these relationships. However, a separate strategy for cooperation with the region was not developed in five years despite political attention to the dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region development and the need to deepen relations with these countries. The region is hardly mentioned in the documents that shape Ukraine’s development strategy.
C+ Middle East
In 2019, the intensity of activities at the high-level and and at the parliamentary one declined. There was proactive intergovernmental work on trade and economic cooperation, energy, education and a military industrial complex. The greatest attention in bilateral cooperation was on Qatar and OAE. Intensification of cooperation with Oman is noteworthy. Parliamentary and presidential elections did not affect Ukraine’s policy on the region.
In 2015-2019, Ukraine did not see the Middle East as a vector of its foreign policy — the absence of strategies, concepts or mentions in strategic documents reflects this. The priorities included the development of trade cooperation, which points to the economization of Ukraine’s foreign policy on the Middle East, and of cooperation by industries (agriculture, defence industry, infrastructure, healthcare, energy, education etc.). The share of Ukrainian exports to the Middle Eastern markets reached 13% of its total exports — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Tunisia being the key partners. The most interesting countries for cooperation were those of the Persian Gulf as reflected in a series of high-level visits and the increasing number of agreements with these countries. Despite the lack of systemic attention to the region from Ukrainian politicians, it was mentioned from time to time throughout all five years. These mentions were mostly in the context of global security threats and Russia’s destructive activities in the Middle East. However, the focus on a security aspect is gradually declining after peaking in 2016-2017 when Ukraine held a non-permanent membership at the UN Security Council.
C+ Western Balkans
In 2019, Ukraine’s foreign policy activity with regard to Western Balkans was low and mostly focused on counteraction to Russian aggression and mitigation of its aftermath, as well as facilitation of Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The absence of visit of the top political leaders of Ukraine to the countries of the region and low dynamics of interparliamentary cooperation resulted in the weakening of political dialogue and its limitation to the ministerial level. Measures aimed at stimulating economic cooperation with the countries of the region (except Slovenia) were at a low level.
The Western Balkans has not been one of Ukraine's foreign policy priorities for the past five years. The lack of a comprehensive approach to the region was compensated by the tendency towards building relations with individual countries, notably Croatia and Slovenia. Dialogue with Albania has intensified, resulting in Minister of Foreign Affairs D. Bushati's visit to Kyiv in February 2018 and an agreement on the opening of diplomatic missions. The key foreign policy tasks in relations with the countries of the region included securing their support for international counteraction to Russian aggression and an assistance to Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Among the results achieved, the most significant ones were international support for Ukraine on the part of most countries in the region, with the exception of Serbia's negative attitude and BiH's neutral position; Slovenia’s and Croatia’s assistance in organizing humanitarian demining, rehabilitation of Ukrainian servicemen and children, and training of Ukrainian psychologists. Ukraine has short-term visa-free travel arrangements with all the countries in the region. The participation of the Ukrainian contingent in the KFOR stabilization mission contributed to the positive image of Ukraine in the region.
Economic cooperation between Ukraine and the countries of the region remained at a rather low level, with the trade turnover with none of these states exceeding USD 500 million. Cooperation in the tourism sector has intensified somewhat. In the energy sphere, Ukraine has shown an interest in the implementation of gasification projects in North Macedonia and the construction of a liquefied gas terminal in Croatia.
A- BALTIC STATES
The Baltic States remain among the top “advocates” of Ukraine on the international arena. Thanks to their efforts, the Baltic Plus initiative was launched at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and also the position that Nord Stream 2 is an unacceptable and politically motivated remains on the table. The Baltic States have repeatedly called for non-recognition of the so-called “elections” in Crimea and for a termination of the illegal actions against Crimean Tatars by Russia. The dynamics of cooperation between Ukraine and the Baltic States leans towards increasing intensification in many important spheres. Still, a forced pause in relations due to the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine affected results of relations with the region. In fall, however, this deficiency was fully addressed.
The Baltic States de facto have long been Ukraine’s strategic partners. These countries proactively support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and its European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
The common challenges and risks faced by Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia forced them to revise their vision and reinvigorate international cooperation in the past years. During this time, the attention of the Baltic States to Ukraine increased seriously as reflected by many top-level meetings and messages exchanged by the top officials on Ukraine’s reforms and resolution of the conflict in the East. Cooperation primarily took place in the military, humanitarian and economic spheres. 2018 can certainly be listed as one of the most productive and intense years for Ukraine’s foreign affairs with the Baltic States. Among other things, the visits of the presidents of all three countries to Ukraine reflected this. In 2019, the newly-elected President Zelenskyy visited all three countries of the region in the span of several months. One of the important results of cooperation with the Baltic States was a launch of the Four-Capital-Train (Kyiv, Minsk, Vilnius, and Riga with the prospect of Tallinn joining in 2020).
C Visegrad Four
In 2019, the Visegrad Four was chaired by Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Although its priorities were formed by the member states that are friendly towards Ukraine, the group’s agenda for cooperation with Kyiv has not radically improved, traditionally focusing on V4+EaP meetings at the level of ministers of foreign affairs.
From 2015 to 2019, cooperation with both the Visegrad Four as a regional initiative and its individual member states has undergone significant transformation but, unfortunately, not towards improvement or positive dynamics in relations. At the same time, it should be noted that as part of joint initiatives, Visegrad Four member states have repeatedly adopted political statements and appeals in support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. In practical terms of cooperation, Ukraine has received humanitarian assistance for residents of the regions affected by the Russian aggression and for the projects of rehabilitation and treatment of Ukrainian servicemen. V4 member states have placed a particular emphasis on the implementation of reforms in Ukraine. The V4+Ukraine cooperation format has taken on many new practical dimensions. Ukraine's energy security was directly dependent on the support of the V4 countries for organizing reverse natural gas supplies to Ukraine. The situation changed in 2016-2017 in parallel to the deterioration of political dialogue with individual V4 countries. Hardly any use has been made of the V4+Ukraine format. To be able to resume active cooperation, Ukraine faces the task of rebuilding bilateral trust in relations with Warsaw and Budapest. The first steps in this direction were mapped after the new authorities came to power.
B NORTHERN EUROPE
The elections year of 2019 led to a pause in Ukraine's political relations with the Northern Europe states, with its aftermaths overcome in the second half of the year. The countries of the region continue to provide Kyiv with political support in the international arena. However, in the future, political dialogue needs to be revitalized and inter-parliamentary interaction resuscitated. At the same time, Nordic countries strengthened their positions as sponsors and promoters of several important Ukrainian reforms. The economic sphere needs urgent measures to stimulate both Ukrainian exports to these countries and to attract investments for Ukraine from there.
2017 can be considered the peak of the Kyiv's political interest in Northern Europe, when the state tasks for Northern Europe were most clearly outlined in security context. In 2016-2017, the high-level dialogue was the most intense - four official visits of the president of Ukraine to the countries of the region were an impetus for a number of important events and trends in the following years (meetings of joint intergovernmental commissions, intensification of inter-parliamentary dialogue, implementation of large-scale projects facilitating reforms, and promotion of Ukraine's artistic presence in the region).
C- Latin America
Interest in bilateral cooperation with countries in the region has been clearly articulated after the 2019 presidential elections. However, the developers of Ukraine’s foreign policy strategy continue to underestimate the human and resource potential of Latin America. This was reflected in the slow growth of Ukrainian exports and the subsequent loss of international support for Ukraine in counteracting Russian aggression from the ruling elites, in particular in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and others, as confirmed by the results of the UN GA vote on the updated and reinforced Resolution “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine (18.12.2019). At the same time, compared with the previous year, there were more votes in support of the Resolution "Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov" (09.12.2019).
Russian aggression against Ukraine has first and foremost brought to the fore the political aspects of cooperation with the countries of the region. However, despite Ukraine’s best efforts, Latin American and Caribbean states have a reserved position regarding the issue of countering Russian aggression against Ukraine, as evidenced by the results of their votes on the UN “Ukrainian resolutions" in 2014-2019.
The period of 2014-2016 saw a rapid decline in Ukrainian exports to the countries of the region, but in 2017-2018 there was a positive dynamics of export growth, which, however, has not reached the level of 2011-2013. Local political elites do not have a positive image of Ukraine, first of all, due to the lack of well-articulated state policy, goals and objectives of Ukraine in the region. Ukraine suffered a blow to its image, in addition to large financial losses, due to the unilateral termination of the "space" agreement with Brazil.
C+ South Asia
Cooperation with South Asian countries did not see much change in 2019 compared with the previous year. A certain revival of political interest in the region as such, and India and Pakistan in particular, was observed. A breakthrough was achieved in establishing government and parliamentary relations with Afghanistan. At the same time, almost no attention was paid to Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.
For five years, Ukraine's relations with the countries of South Asia have remained within the defined trajectories, including in the trade-economic, military-technical and aviation sectors. There is a lack of strategic vision of relations with the Asia-Pacific region in general and individual countries of this region in particular. For the past five years, there have been no high-level visits or meetings between Ukraine and the countries of the region, which is critical given Russia's active efforts in the region. A positive achievement of this period was the revival of political dialogue with Sri Lanka.
C- Sub-Saharan Africa
There was a noticeable increase in attention to African countries in the political discourse at the level of declarations after the change of power in Ukraine in 2019. In particular, it was announced that preparations were underway for high-level political dialogue in the framework of the President of Ukraine’s pending visit to Africa in 2020. The emphasis was placed on making relations pragmatic with a view to economic benefits. Attention to Africa has also increased in the context of prospects for the distribution of Ukrainian agricultural products. Trade between Ukraine and Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 demonstrated strong growth, although the number of trading partners has stayed unchanged. Support for Kyiv in international organisations has remained at the previous level. However, given the intensification of Russia’s efforts on the continent, further development of Ukraine-Africa dialogue in multinational formats will continue with limitations.
Despite the growing weight of Sub-Saharan African countries in the international arena, stabilization of the military-political situation on the continent, and positive economic dynamics, the Ukraine's political position on relations with the region has hardly changed over the past five years. Africa remains at the periphery of interests in strategic documents, although attention to it has been showing a trend towards cautious growth. Still, a high-level political dialogue has never taken place. However, in 2019, the hope of holding it in the short-term perspective appeared.
There has been a slow increase in Ukraine’s presence in African markets, but there has been no significant expansion of the range of African partners. Trade contacts with many countries in the region remain situational and do not tend to be sustainable. Due to increasing competition in African markets, conditions for strengthening Ukraine's partnership with African countries, while still favourable, require prompt and urgent action by Kyiv.
D+ Central Asia
The great political and economic dependence of the Central Asian countries on the Russian Federation, as well as the lack of joint political and economic projects between Ukraine and the countries of the region, significantly reduce the prospect of this foreign policy direction. The geographical remoteness of the region and Russia's actual blocking of Ukraine's transit and trade access to it continue to affect dynamics of interstate relations development with the countries of Central Asia.
Within five years, the Central Asian trend has did not become a priority due to some objective reasons (the pro-Western vector of the Ukraine's foreign policy and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as well as a geographical distance of the region). The foreign political and economic relations stagnation between Ukraine and the Central Asian countries became a permanent reality. With exception made to several economically attractive projects, the volume of exports and imports of goods and services between Ukraine and the CA countries remains insignificant, and there is a steady tendency for further decline in mutual business activity. In fact, the absence of a common economic and political agenda, the preservation of the post-Soviet regimes of the Central Asian countries, focus on their own agenda, as well as economic and political dependence on Russia led to the situation of Ukraine absence in the region in the med-term perspective. An important indicator of the lack of prospective relations with the countries of the region is their already established foreign policy position on the Russian occupation of the Crimea. Russia's influence on the regimes of these countries and the lack of an effective Ukrainian presence in the region close it for further prospective cooperation with Ukraine.
B- Black Sea Region
In 2019, the Black Sea region remained one of the most important dimensions for Ukraine’s national interests. Just like in 2018, Ukraine’s attention was mostly focused on countering the Russian threat to free navigation, including overcoming consequences of Russia’s policy towards the Ukrainian trade and navy fleets in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Ukraine’s deeper cooperation with NATO countries and Georgia on the Black Sea issues developed further. In 2019, Ukraine presided in GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.
In five years, the Black Sea direction of Ukraine’s foreign policy turned out to be the most vulnerable in terms of protecting national interests. The fact that it was on the list of the top priorities in foreign policy triggered proactive involvement of Ukrainian political institutions in tackling the problems. The key tasks were focused on challenges to Ukraine’s sovereignty resulting from the annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and regional international relations. Despite significant political interest at all levels of government, Ukraine’s foreign policy efforts had restricted impact in terms of restoring its sovereignty over Crimea and deterring Russia’s aggression. Still, Ukraine managed to build proactive support and engagement of the international community — primarily of NATO — in deterring further aggression in the region from Russia. Ukrainian government gradually developed some tactical steps as part of its strategic vision for the Black Sea perspectives, including the strengthening of its Navy and intensification of bilateral relations with the Black Sea countries — primarily under the GUAM framework, where Kyiv is a driver of regional cooperation.
B United Nations
Ukraine managed to keep its issues on the agenda of the UN institutions in 2019 and accomplish a positive result on important resolutions. Despite the lower political interest and less intense activities of ministries and MPs, Ukraine was proactively represented at the sectoral level, and had victories in international legal institutions of the UN system.
Ukraine’s activities at the UN reached their high in 2016-2017, during its membership at the UN Security Council. More broadly, Ukraine proactively used mechanisms of the UN and its organizations to promote national interests, to defend its sovereignty and draw the attention towards the Russian aggression, receive humanitarian assistance. Until 2019, representatives of all branches of power participated proactively in the UN-led events regardless an absence of active political interest in the UN itself. At the same time, Ukraine’s presence in peace operations and the interest in global issues on the UN agenda was moderate and did not match Ukraine’s potential. The passing of three “Ukrainian” resolutions by the UN General Assembly and the Orders and Rulings of the International Tribunal and the Court of Justice are significant accomplishments.
B+ Council of Europe
Important issues in Ukrainian relations with the Council of Europe remain as follows: strengthening the rule of law, democratic institutions, human rights; reforms continuation and their successful implementation; Russian aggression, renewal and increased sanctions against Russia. In 2019, the position of Ukraine in the CoE was significantly undermined by the so-called "Russia’s return" scandal. The CoE Committee of Ministers lobbied for a renewal of the Russian delegation rights in the PACE, which, by a majority vote, approved the decision despite its contradiction with the institutional principles. This provoked the Ukrainian delegation protest in the PACE, curtailed political co-operation and, in general, created a risk of relations stagnation.
During the last five years, Ukraine's dialogue and relations with the CoE were firmly positive. The Ukrainian side consistently followed the CoE recommendations, and joint projects were successfully implemented. Ukraine felt full support from the organization. There was high political interest in cooperation in Ukraine. Institutional cooperation was at a rather high level, enabling effective implementation of projects aimed at strengthening reforms in Ukraine. 2016-2018 were the most active and positive for Ukraine in the CoE and the PACE. In 2019, there was some deterioration in relations, which can be to some extent explained by the problem of the Russian delegation return to the PACE.
In 2019, Ukraine’s activities in the OSCE focused on countering Russia’s aggression and dealing with the consequences of it, and on conducting presidential and parliamentary elections properly. The newly elected government continued the previous course while intensifying activities within the Trilateral Contact Group and interaction with the OSCE SMM to implement some articles of the Minsk Agreements. Ukraine managed to keep the attention on important issues thanks to close cooperation with the OSCE institutions and a series of visits of the President and members of the OSCE PA, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office from Slovakia, the High Commissioner on National Minorities and monitoring missions to Ukraine. Cooperation with the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine contributed to domestic reforms and the implementation of projects to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and overcome consequences of the conflict.
In these five years, Ukraine was proactive within the OSCE framework, including in its Parliamentary Assembly. This reflected the key task of Ukraine’s foreign policy - to stop Russia’s war against Ukraine, including by means of the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE SMM and OSCE Special Representative, as well as overcoming conflict consequences via the Project Co-ordinator Office in Ukraine. Complementing this were the annual visits of ministers of foreign affairs of the OSCE chairing states, meetings of the Ukrainian leaders with the OSCE leadership and the participation of Ukrainian representatives in the OSCE events.
The key accomplishment of Ukraine in the OSCE was keeping its attention constantly focused on the Russian aggression and its consequences. Ukraine managed to accomplish adoption of resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression and expressing support for Ukraine virtually every year. Ukraine was more successful in the OSCE PA framework than in the OSCE itself, what is due to the decision-making mechanisms — unanimous in the OSCE and majority in the OSCE PA. Using this mechanism, Russia blocked virtually any practical steps to solve the conflict, including the expansion of the OSCE SMM mandate and the OSCE Observer Mission (Gukovo, Donetsk), and its monitoring along the line of the Ukraine-Russia border and of the temporarily occupied Crimea. The OSCE remained the only international organization directly involved in the resolution of the conflict at various levels.
B- Human rights
In 2019, the UN, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE platforms remained the mechanisms used to promote human rights in Ukraine, as well as for Ukrainian citizens abroad, mostly illegally held in the Russian Federation, separate areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the annexed Crimea. At the same time, institutional cooperation and political involvement were influenced by the results of the 2019 electoral cycle and the rotation of elites, including those involved in human rights-related processes. In particular, changes to the composition of the Ukrainian delegation to the PACE and refraining from participating in the September session cut possibilities to influence the retention of the institutions’ attention. At the same time, the MFA’s great achievement was a decision of the International Court of Justice to extend the jurisdiction of the International Convention on the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination against the Russian Federation in the Crimea.
For five years, Ukraine focused on human rights as a tool of diplomacy (initiating resolutions at the UN GA, the UN treaty bodies, the PACE, the OSCE Permanent Council, the Trilateral Contact Group negotiation process, etc.). The second dimension is the fulfilment of Ukraine's international legal obligations (going through the 2017 Universal Periodic Review, working with international partners to develop an action plan to ensure human rights in the reform process in Ukraine, launched in 2018 Human Rights Dialogue between Ukraine and EU), support for the protection of human rights in the framework of cooperation between Ukraine and the Council of Europe Office.
The National Human Rights Strategy and the Action Plan for its Implementation for 2015-2020 remain the main document reflecting the strategic vision on the human rights development in Ukraine. At the same time, human rights consolidation as a strategic direction for five years was not mentioned in Strategy-2020, annual addresses of the president of Ukraine to the Verkhovna Rada. Indirectly, certain aspects of human rights respect, related to the Russian Federation armed aggression aftermaths, had some place in the rhetoric of the President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy (an emphasis on the release of prisoners of war was part of public speeches in 2019).
C+ Climate Change
The year of 2019 saw a merger of two ministries into the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection of Ukraine. The process of preparing the second Nationally Determined Contribution and the National Energy and Climate Change Plan for 2021-2030 has begun. Work on implementing climate-related requirements of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement continued.
Political parties and the Parliament have not paid much attention to climate change over the last five years. Members of the respective parliamentary committee make the only exception. At the same time, cross-profile cooperation between ministries and international partners has intensified. The Ministry in charge gave higher priority to climate policy. The implementation of Ukraine's international commitments has been delayed, but in recent years, the first important strategic documents on climate policy have been developed in cooperation with international organizations.
The end of the decade was marked by the beginning of the review of strategic documents on climate change. The process of preparing the second Nationally Determined Contribution and the National Energy and Climate Change Plan for 2021-2030 has begun; the review of the 2035 Energy Strategy is underway. Work is still in progress on the implementation of the climate change requirements under the Association Agreement. The review and development of the documents will demonstrate Ukraine’s willingness to work on climate policy for the next 10-15 years.
D- Nuclear Non-proliferation
During the reporting period, Ukraine’s foreign policy on non-proliferation was even more passive than last year and was aimed at avoiding elaboration of any independent position on global issues. On the practical side, special attention was paid to the fulfilment of international commitments on physical protection, export control and non-proliferation.
Ukraine's non-proliferation policy over the last five years should be described as rather ambiguous. On the one hand, there were no particular changes as its foreign policy vector was stable and sustainable. Ukraine fulfilled its obligations under international treaties in full, working systematically within international institutions to strengthen the NPT regime. In the international arena, Ukraine mostly aligned its position with that of the USA and the EU. Ukraine has significantly improved its ability to control exports and counter illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials. Active cooperation with international partners in these areas took place.
On the other hand, one can point out a rather passive nature of Ukraine's non-proliferation policy, which is reflected in the absence of its own vision of strategic issues of non-proliferation and arms control. In particular, this concerns both the lack of a clear position on the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the formal refusal of the MFA of Ukraine to recognize its membership in the INF Treaty. The latter looks rather strange, given that for many years Ukraine had been involved in the implementation of the INF Treaty and that in 1991 it passed the succession law under which it is a party to all treaties signed by the USSR.
D+ International security
In 2019, international security issues were virtually absent from Ukrainian politics. Activities were limited to political statements and traditional cooperation with the UN and NATO. Most international security problems lacked a well-articulated state position.
International security issues were not on the agenda of Ukrainian foreign policy and enjoyed limited political interest only in the framework of cooperation on issues of Russian aggression against Ukraine and other states. Ukraine has lost its position as a mediator in the Transnistrian conflict. Despite statements about Ukraine’s increasing participation in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of various international organizations, the total number of its personnel has remained unchanged. The peak of Ukrainian activity and involvement in international security happened in 2016-2017, when Ukraine was a non-permanent member of the UN SC. For the most part, Ukraine’s activities and results are limited to its efforts in the UN, OSCE and NATO.
C+ Consolidation of International Support on Countering Russian Aggression
2019 demonstrated the existence of dangerous trends in the erosion of Ukraine's international support in its countering Russian aggression. Due to certain domestic and foreign policy factors, the Ukrainian strategy of expanding the international support circle and increasing the pressure on the Russian Federation policy, in its previous form, became obsolete. Nonetheless, the EU and Ukraine's international partners extended anti-Russian sanctions and restrictive measures once again, and NATO continued to support Ukraine in resisting Russian military aggression. The Russian delegation's return to the PACE was a major defeat for the Ukrainian diplomacy. Ukraine continued its active work within the UN and international courts to condemn Russia's actions in Crimea and Donbas region.
While summarizing the five-year efforts of the Ukrainian state to consolidate international support on countering Russian aggression, it should be noted that, in general, national diplomacy effectively accomplished unprecedented in its history tasks. Russian aggression against Ukraine continues to emerge against the backdrop of conflicting norms of international law and cumbersome procedures for its application. In this reality, they managed to form an effective coalition of international support within the UN, the EU, NATO and several other international organizations. At the same time, there is still no consolidated counteraction strategy. Political transit within Ukraine weakened Ukraine's position, imposing of sanctions needs more efforts, and the international partners’ calls for dialogue intensifies. The main challenge is to maintain the "nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine" strategy.
C+ Economic diplomacy
Return to the nationwide discourse an issue of raising the status of economic diplomacy by restoring a separate ministry responsible for Ukraine’s foreign economic policy within the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine is one of the results of the change of power in Ukraine. This step resolves the main problem of national economic diplomacy of the past several years concerning a single decision-making centre.
Over the last five years, foreign economic activity has continued to remain under the influence of certain large oligarchic groups, it was controlled by numerous administrative bodies and limited by imperfect legislation. There is no strategic vision on trade relations with Russia. There has been no cooperation with certain regions and leading international economic and financial organizations.
B+ Public Diplomacy
In 2019, Ukraine continued to develop public diplomacy by coordinating efforts of the MFA Departmentof Public Diplomacy, the Ukrainian Institute, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and others. An important task here is to ensure its sustainable and systemic nature, which is to be provided by a strategy of public diplomacy, which has not been presented yet. The cultural and image components became dominant in 2019, with Ukraine being represented at a number of cultural events of international importance. There are now Ukrainian-language guides in a number of museums, and international media and airports have changed the spelling to Kyiv. However, there is still a lack of proper support for the academic and expert components, in particular mobility programmes for researchers and scientists, while grant support for Ukrainian NGOs have not been outlined. The foreign offices of the Ukrainian Institute and Ukrainian language courses abroad have not been launched.
The period of 2015-2019 saw a true breakthrough in Ukraine’s public diplomacy, which is a fairly new direction in the country's foreign policy. From individual initiatives, this direction has evolved to become institutionalized and is slowly gaining a systemic character. This was facilitated by the establishment and active efforts of the MFA Department of Public Diplomacy, an establishment and launch of the Ukrainian Institute and the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation. The issue of the Ukrainian Institute’s foreign offices has not been resolved yet.
Given that this area is new for Ukraine, political interest and involvement in it are quite moderate. So far, not everyone in political establishment adequately understands the potential and impact of public diplomacy, as well as its necessity, especially in the face of hybrid warfare. Proper interagency cooperation was not always the case. Although a monitoring study of culture and information centres in foreign diplomatic offices was carried out in 2018, a model of the Ukrainian Institute’s cooperation with them has not been finalized. The launch of Ukrainian language courses abroad, which programmes should be developed by the Ministry of Education and Science, has not been scheduled either.
Still, a whole number of strategic documents have been adopted, reflecting the tasks and importance of public diplomacy, including the Concept of Ukraine’s popularization in the world and promotion of Ukraine’s interests in the global information space, the Information Security Doctrine of Ukraine, the Law “On Diplomatic Service”, the Sustainable Development Strategy “Ukraine-2020” and others. The Strategy of the Ukrainian Institute and the Strategy of Public Diplomacy are still being developed and have not been presented yet.
B- Ukrainians Abroad
The Ukrainian authorities did not leave Ukrainians abroad without attention as evidenced by the country leadership’s meetings with representatives of the diaspora and the implementation of the State Programme for Cooperation with Ukrainians Abroad until 2020. Communication has been established with Ukrainian diaspora organisations to promote Ukraine and Ukrainians, protect Ukraine’s interests in the world, and draw attention to important security issues, especially in the light of Russian aggression. However, interaction with the diaspora often lacked systemic approach and was largely declarative.
Cooperation with Ukrainians abroad increased in 2015-2019, primarily due to the Russian aggression and strengthening of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration policy. Ukraine adopted the State Programme for Cooperation with Ukrainians Abroad until 2020, opened the Ukrainian Institute, created a separate department at the MFA, and boosted foreign diplomatic missions’ efforts in this area.
The issues of dual citizenship and assistance to migrant workers remain unresolved. There are no programmes to protect the national identity of people of Ukrainian descent in the post-Soviet space, as well as of Ukrainians in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.
FOREIGN POLICY OF UKRAINE IN 2019 С+
Political Interest / Engagement “3+”
Political interest in foreign policy issues in 2019 had its distinctive features. Above all, the presidential and parliamentary elections had a significant impact on the content and dynamics of political interest on the part of the key actors of the country’s foreign policy.
Foreign policy priorities outlined by President P. Poroshenko during the 2019 election campaign focused on the directions that had been traditional to his five-year term in office. Given Russian armed aggression and especially the events, which happened in the Kerch Strait in late 2018, consolidation of international support for counteraction to Russian aggression was an issue f paramount importance. An emphasis was also made on European and Euro-Atlantic integration, particularly on the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On the introduction of amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (regarding a strategic course of the state towards acquiring full-fledged membership of Ukraine in the EU and NATO)” in February 2019. This remained one of the top three subjects during the presidential and parliamentary elections.
At the same time, the foreign policy statements made by Ukrainian presidential candidate V. Zelenskyy during the election campaign, in particular on Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, were rather ambiguous. In his speeches, he mostly talked about ending the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In his inauguration speech in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, newly-elected President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy named the expansion of foreign economic ties and the strengthening of contacts with Ukrainians abroad among his future policy priorities in addition to the need to end the war against Russia.
Newly elected President V. Zelenskyy paid his first foreign visit to Brussels in June 2019, bringing clarity regarding his position on such foreign policy directions as the fight against Russian aggression, the strategic course towards the EU and NATO, and restoration of good neighbourly relations, including with Poland.
The substantial joint statement following the EU-Ukraine Summit in July can be considered a political declaration regarding the continuation and strengthening of the European integration and an implementation of the Association Agreement. This statement lists sectors, in which the EU and Ukraine plan to deepen cooperation, the majority of which has been promoted by previous Head of State P. Poroshenko and Prime Minister V. Groysman.
In 2019, President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy did not deliver any policy speeches aimed for Ukrainian or foreign diplomats. Neither did he deliver the Annual Presidential Address to the Verkhovna Rada “On the Internal and External Situation in Ukraine”. He did not make any policy statements while introducing new Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs V. Prystaiko to the ministry’s staff in September 2019. Therefore, the President of Ukraine’s Decree No 837/2019 “On urgent measures for reforming and strengthening the state” can be considered the only manifestation of V. Zelenskyy’s policy views as of the official in charge of the country’s foreign policy.
Although it is a general document touching upon various areas of state policy, it sets the following priorities with regard to foreign affairs: consolidation of international support for restoring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, a strategic course towards Ukraine’s full-fledged membership of the EU and NATO; partnerships with G7 and G20 member states; good relations with neighbour states; development of economic diplomacy; promotion of Ukraine’s image, protection of Ukrainian citizens and organisations abroad; and strengthening cooperation with Ukrainians abroad. Overall, as far as declarations are concerned, most priorities match the previous foreign policy course, which was implemented under President P. Poroshenko. Compared with the previous years, more attention was paid to partnerships with the neighbouring states, the role of the diplomatic service in creating favourable conditions for strengthening Ukrainian economy, and cooperation with the Ukrainian diaspora.
At the level of political statements, V. Zelenskyy paid more attention to the settlement of the Donbas conflict and relations with strategic partners (the USA, Germany, France, Poland and the Baltic states).
During the snap parliamentary elections, foreign policy issues took their place in the declarations and statements of the respective political parties. At the same time, election programmes and manifests lacked systematic approach towards accentuation of the foreign policy agenda.
The election programme of the Servant of the People party did not have a clear foreign policy component and fully complied with President V. Zelenskyy’s position. As far as the settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is concerned, it only mentioned legal support for V. Zelenskyy’s initiatives to restore the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty without any meaningful content. It included some general statements about an adoption of laws, which are necessary for the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. As for the Euro-Atlantic direction, it mentioned plans to pass legislative acts, which would facilitate broader cooperation with NATO, as well as a reform of the Ukrainian Armed Forces according to NATO standards. The election programme also paid attention to the development of commercial diplomacy in order to master global markets and to strengthening contacts with Ukrainians abroad.
The Opposition Platform – For Life party represented the ideological opposition and unacceptance of the country’s current foreign policy priorities. The key foreign policy ideas of its election programme included a vision for restoring peace in Donbas by establishing dialogue between Kyiv, Moscow, Donetsk and Luhansk, lifting reciprocal sanctions by Ukraine and Russia, and Ukraine’s neutral status.
The election programme of the European Solidarity party focused on European and Euro-Atlantic integration, offering the most detailed description of steps and objectives presented in the party manifesto called “The Euro-Atlantic Charter”. This manifesto sets the main goal of applying for the EU membership in 2023, and mentions a possibility of obtaining NATO’s Membership Action Plan that same year. The party suggested in its election programme that Ukraine should continue building a strong international coalition for counteraction to Russian aggression, and making certain steps towards the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories.
Batkivshchyna party also mentioned the need to continue the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine at the level of implementing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and preparing for obtaining NATO’s Membership Action Plan. The election programme said that Donbas and Crimea could only be de-occupied if the Normandy format of negotiations were replaced with “Budapest+” (Ukraine, Russia, the USA, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and the EU). The party manifesto, called “Ukraine’s New Deal”, paid significant attention to international trade.
The Voice party also said that Ukraine’s foreign policy should be based on obtaining the EU and NATO membership. In addition, the party’s priorities included mounting international pressure on Russia in order to restore control over the occupied territories of Donbas and annexed Crimea, stepping up diplomatic efforts in international arena, increasing the impact of sanctions on the aggressor and facilitating its international isolation. The party suggested that international trade should be made simpler by improving transparency of customs and supporting procedures.
As the Servant of the People party managed to form a majority in parliament singlehandedly (the so-called single-party majority), there was no need to draft a coalition agreement, let alone look for areas of common interest with various parliamentary parties, including in foreign policy. At the same time, the Servant of the People party did not deem it necessary to offer an extended programme, which would present its vision of the state foreign policy agenda.
The Verkhovna Rada chairman and his deputies avoided foreign policy issues during their appointment. The fact that foreign policy was not among priority issues during the parliamentary elections, including for the winner party, resulted in a decline in the general political interest and engagement in 2019. Overall, the VRU of the VIII convocation showed a much bigger interest in foreign policy than their successors. Representatives of the opposition European Solidarity party (I. Klympush-Tsintsadze, I. Gerashchenko, V. Ariev and O. Goncharenko) were the most active members of parliament of the IX convocation in this regard in 2019. The change of the parliamentary committee head and a centralised approach to forming a position of the majority did not help parliament to articulate their vision on the key issues of the foreign policy agenda.
The Cabinet of Ministers’ five-year action programme, which the Verkhovna Rada approved in October, identified the political goals of O. Honcharuk’s government, including in terms of foreign policy. However, although the programme acknowledges the consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, it does not set the task of consolidating international support for counteraction to it.
At the same time, the government’s document contains individual goals concerning obtaining the EU and NATO membership for Ukraine, which mostly have to do with domestic reforms. Economic diplomacy is also mentioned among the priorities. The programme assigns such direct tasks to the MFA as strengthening consular support for Ukrainians abroad, expanding the list of visa-free countries, as well as ensuring support for business, culture, and sports abroad. Actually, the assignments focused on applied, primarily consular issues rather than on political issues of bilateral relations, regional policy or participation in international organisations. This generally corresponds to the logic of President V. Zelenskyy, who in 2019 focused more on domestic social-economic reforms and less on European integration as a foreign policy priority.
Prime Minister O. Honcharuk in his public speeches raised the issues of economic cooperation, development of international trade, and attraction of foreign investment. Some members of the Cabinet of Ministers (for example, D. Kuleba, V. Prystaiko, T. Milovanov, T. Kachka, O. Orzhel, and others) were active in commenting on the agenda, including on prospects for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Overall, the year of 2019 saw the highest political interest being paid to Canada, Poland, the USA, France, the Baltic states, and the EU, economic diplomacy, and cooperation with the Council of Europe. The issue of neighbouring states did not leave the agenda either but saw a shift of accents.
Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Central Asia, international security (apart from the Russian aggression in Ukraine), and nuclear non-proliferation received the least attention from political actors.
Institutional Cooperation “3+”
In 2019, the coordination of joint intentions and actions between different government offices underwent certain transformation. The system of relations in the distribution of powers and responsibility for particular foreign policy directions, that had been in place, changed for political reasons, which included the presidential and parliamentary in Ukraine, and their results, as well as a certain transition period. Both interpersonal and political factors influenced the formation of the new algorithm of cooperation.
The election of V. Zelenskyy, who had little experience in foreign affairs, as President of Ukraine was accompanied by building his team responsible for international activities. In the Presidential Office, this was happening while the MFA, the Government Office for European Euro-Atlantic Integration and the respective parliamentary committee still had their old persons-in-charge, who belonged to the former government team of President P. Poroshenko. In particular, V. Zelenskyy failed to replace the Minister of Foreign Affairs in June and July because parliament did not dismiss P. Klimkin twice. A public conflict broke out between President V. Zelenskyy and Minister of Foreign Affairs P. Klimkin in late June over inconsistent positions regarding the Ministry’s response to the Russian note on captive Ukrainian sailors. The President criticised the position of the Foreign Ministry leadership, while P. Klimkin pointed out differences in approaches to counteraction to Russian aggression.
More political conflicts took place during the parliamentary election campaign. In particular, Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration I. Klympush-Tsintsadze was prevented from attending the EU-Ukraine Summit in July.
Various government offices (the Presidential Office, the Cabinet of Ministers, the MFA, the VRU, and others) began to coordinate their efforts in a more or less stable manner not earlier than in the autumn after the parliamentary majority was formed, parliamentary committees elected their heads, and a new composition of the Cabinet of Ministers was appointed.
Back in the summer, there were concerns that a post of the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration may be cancelled altogether, which could have a strong negative effect on the coordination of efforts of all government institutions in this area. The fact that the post was retained and assigned to D. Kuleba, who had been known for his pro-European views, sent a positive message that the state was preserving its course and continuing to coordinate EU and NATO integration processes.
A composition of the Commission for the Coordination of Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, which is an auxiliary body under the President of Ukraine, was updated in October.
During the change of government, the team of the Government Office for the Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration at the Cabinet of Ministers’ Secretariat came up with a transition book entitled “European and Euro-Atlantic Integration” in order to keep the pace of reforms and ensure that the new government and parliament carry on the state policy on European and Euro-Atlantic integration. However, a post of the director-general of the Government Office for the Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration has been vacant since autumn 2019, which has adversely affected the office’s operation.
Though, the establishment of cooperation between Vice Prime Minister D. Kuleba and the parliamentary committee for the EU integration, headed by I. Klympush-Tsintsadze, NGO networks (for example, the Ukrainian National Platform of the EaP Civil Society Forum, the Ukrainian part of the EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform, Reanimation Package of Reforms, and others) deserves praise.
The composition of the Ukrainian parts of bilateral intergovernmental commissions, which were responsible for boosting economic cooperation, was actively updated in October. Because of expectations for an appointment of the new government and a corresponding update of the Ukrainian parts of the commissions, meetings of these bilateral commissions were rescheduled towards the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.
Relations between the Presidential Office and the MFA deserve a separate mention. Although there are experienced career diplomats in the government team, it should be noted that V. Zelenskyy had delegated some foreign policy and security issues to members of his Office, in particular to his aide A. Yermak.
The latter’s remit included negotiations with Russia, members of the Normandy Four, and the USA. The emphasis on informal diplomacy and the separation of the mentioned issues from the general foreign policy activities affected a level of coordination with and engagement of the MFA. The inclination to act outside the protocol and established diplomatic practices led to international scandals in 2019, for example, with the USA in the context of US President D. Trump’s domestic political struggle with his political opponents.
The positive changes that are worth mentioning included Presidential Decree No 740/2019 by which V. Zelenskyy restored the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ right to appoint candidates for a number of diplomatic jobs without an approval of the Presidential Office. This made it possible to rotate senior diplomats more effectively, which had often been delayed before.
The second half of 2019 saw an active reshuffle of the heads of the foreign diplomatic missions, including Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States V. Chaly. In September, V. Prystaiko secured the President’s consent to appoint 20 new ambassadors, who were appointed by the end of the year. Still, a large number of embassies do not have their heads.
In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised a cluster meeting in Berlin for heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Western and Central Europe. Similar meetings were planned for early 2020 for Southern and Central European ambassadors in the Czech Republic and for ambassadors from the Asia-Pacific region in Singapore. This approach provides for faster and more cost-effective meetings with ambassadors.
In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to actively cooperate with its Public Council, as well as with individual think tanks, to prepare and hold bilateral expert forums and foreign journalists’ visits to Ukraine. In 2019, forums were held with Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary.
The MFA ran a programme under which Ukrainian independent experts were sent abroad for participation in thematic public events. An interesting example of coordination was the joint meeting of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation and the Committee on Ukraine’s Integration into the EU. In addition to committee members, the meeting was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs V. Prystaiko, Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration D. Kuleba, and the deputy head of the Presidential Office I. Zhovkva, and a number of think-tank representatives. The meeting participants discussed the issues of European and Euro-Atlantic integration and prospects for the Minsk process.
Apart from the positive examples of cooperation between the committees, it is necessary to mention the fact that political interests dominated European integration issues. In particular, the head of the respective committee, I. Klympush-Tsintsadze repeatedly said that representatives of the ruling party tend to vote for bills sponsored by their fellow party members even though they do not reflect Ukraine’s commitments on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement.
There was a certain lack of coordination of actions in the new composition of the parliamentary delegation to PACE with regard to participation in the autumn 2019 session.
The appointment of B. Yaremenko’s successor as a head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Interparliamentary Cooperation was delayed by the Servant of the People faction. The committee had no head from mid-November 2019 to the end of the year.
In general, based on the findings of this study, experts have concluded that the most coordinated foreign policy efforts of Ukraine were observed in the following areas: Belarus, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, economic cooperation with the EU, public diplomacy, activities within the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. There was a lack of internal Ukrainian cooperation in foreign policy with regard to Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Iran.
Strategic Vision 3+
In 2019, the legal framework that sets the strategic foundation of Ukraine’s foreign and security policy faced a number of changes. Some of these were a result of the policy that had been designed earlier and outlined in 2019, but had some political undertone as well. The others were a result of the reshuffle of the presidential and government teams after the elections that called for a new definition of foreign policy frames and objectives.
The key development of 2019 regarding strategic cementing of Ukraine’s foreign policy course was an adoption by the Verkhovna Rada in February 2019 of the Law to Amend the Constitution of Ukraine on the Strategic Course to Obtain Full EU and NATO Membership. Initiated by President P. Poroshenko in mid-2018, the law amends a number of articles in the Constitution that define the powers of the Verkhovna Rada (Art. 85 of the Constitution), the President of Ukraine (Art. 102), and the Cabinet of Ministers (Art. 116). Among other things, the parliament is empowered to implement the strategic course towards Ukraine’s full membership in the EU and NATO, while the Government should ensure the implementation of this course. The President of Ukraine is a guarantor for the implementation of this strategic course.
At the same time, this law and the amendments it introduced had more of a political effect, both domestically and in communication with international partners. Cooperation with the EU and NATO continued based on the agreements, action plans and road maps that have been in place for several years now. The update of the Ukraine-NATO Annual National Program, applying the results-based management approach, was an important internal addition to Ukraine’s international commitments.
In addition to that, President P. Poroshenko signed Decree No155/2019 proposing the Plan to Implement the Strategic Course for Full Membership of Ukraine in the EU and NATO. He signed it on April 20, a day before the second round of the presidential elections, which experts saw as a politically motivated move. However, the government explained that this move was necessary because a position of the possible new president was unclear concerning strategic vectors of Ukraine’s foreign policy. Among other things, the Decree proposes that Ukraine continues dialogue with the EU in the respective areas, including political dialogue, economic cooperation, security and defence, aiming at full membership in the EU. Also, the action plan determines Ukraine’s priorities in the development of the Eastern Partnership, prioritizes and strengthens the format of cooperation between the three partner-states that have signed Association Agreements with the EU (Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova). The most ambitious part of the NATO vector in the document is a preparation and submission of proposals to request the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and the NATO Secretary General to grant the NATO Membership Action Plan to Ukraine.
Overall, the legal framework defining Ukraine’s foreign policy objectives, principles, and directions as of April 2019, when V. Zelenskyy was elected President of Ukraine, was comprised of the following documents, in addition to the ones listed above:
- Law on the Basics of Domestic and Foreign Policy (2010);
- Law on Diplomatic Service (2018);
- Law on the National Security of Ukraine (2018);
- National Security Strategy of Ukraine (2015);
- Military Doctrine of Ukraine (2015);
- Ukraine 2020 Sustainable Development Strategy (2015);
- Information Security Doctrine of Ukraine (2016);
- Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035 (2017);
- Export Strategy of Ukraine —Strategic Trade Development Roadmap for 2017-2021 (2017);
- Defence Industry Development Strategy of Ukraine until 2028 (2018);
- National Human Rights Strategy (2015);
- National Action Plan to Implement the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security until 2020 (2016);
- Concept for Promotion of Ukraine in the World and Promotion of its Interests in the Global Media Space (2016);
- Peacekeeping Strategy of Ukraine (2009);
- State Program of Cooperation with Ukrainians Abroad until 2020 (2017);
- Ukraine-EU Association Agreement (2014);
- NATO-Ukraine Charter on Distinctive Partnership (1997);
- Ukraine-NATO Annual National Program (2019).
Some of these documents are outdated or have not been fulfilled by the government institutions in charge sufficiently to qualify for full implementation — examples include the Sustainable Development Strategy “Ukraine-2020”, the Information Security Doctrine, the Export Strategy of Ukraine, and the Concept for Promotion of Ukraine in the World and Promotion of its Interests in the Global Media Space.
The first document by V. Zelenskyy’s team that could be described as a strategic one, and lists priorities on some areas of foreign policy is the mid-term five-year Program of the Cabinet of Ministers proposed by Prime Minister O. Honcharuk and approved by the Verkhovna Rada in October. The Program is based on measurability of the objectives set by the Government (KPI). At the same time, the foreign policy issues that cannot be quantified were not included in the Program. Especially visible is an absence of objectives to counter the Russian aggression and consolidate international support.
Under the Cabinet of Ministers Program, Vice Prime Minister D. Kuleba was put in charge of objectives 17.1 “Ukraine meets EU membership criteria” and 17.2 “Ukraine meets NATO membership principles and criteria.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was put in charge of three objectives: 16.1 “Ukrainians are satisfied how the state protects them abroad,” 16.2 “Ukrainians travel the world freely visa-free”, and 16.3 “Ukrainian business, culture, and sports receive decent support abroad.” The Government Program thus focuses on the functional issues of protecting interests of Ukrainian citizens abroad, developing tools of economic, public and cultural diplomacy, and intensifying projects to improve Ukraine’s image abroad to build its positive image and counter Russia’s information campaigns, rather than on the strategic tasks.
By contrast to the previous government program of V. Groysman’s Cabinet until 2020, the new Program has a positive approach to determining strategic and tactical steps for accomplishing objectives, in particular it mandates the government institutions to prepare public policy concepts on accomplishing respective objectives and a detailed mid-term plan to accomplish them by 2024.
The President’s Decree No837/2019 “On urgent measures for reforming and strengthening the state” can be referred as a strategic document with important foreign-policy components of 2019. The foreign policy section of this document was a response to public request regarding the position of President Zelenskyy and his team on Ukraine’s foreign policy priorities. The decree was intended to fill the gaps in the Government Program concerning foreign policy and international security. The decree outlined nine priority tasks to be implemented by the Government in the foreign policy domain by the end of 2020:
- 1. strengthening international support for Ukraine in restoring its territorial integrity and sovereignty;
- 2. finding support for Ukraine’s course towards EU and NATO membership among international partners;
- 3. developing partnership relations with the G7 and G20 member-states;
- 4. developing partnership relations with the neighbour countries;
- 5. effective foreign policy support to Ukraine’s economic development (economic diplomacy);
- 6. contributing to Ukraine’s positive image in the world, including via tools of cultural diplomacy;
- 7. strengthening protection of Ukrainian citizens and legal entities abroad;
- 8. cooperating with Ukrainians abroad; and
- 9. enhancing opportunities of the diplomatic service, its efficiency and impact.
It is possible to say that the Government Program is balanced with additional directions that give a more comprehensive idea about the foreign policy position of the new team in power. This is why Ukraine’s MFA not only reported in late 2019 on the fulfilment of three objectives of the Government Program, but also provided additional information on the interaction with the key international partners for the purpose of countering Russia’s aggression and holding Russia accountable internationally, and on relations with neighbour-states. That helped to get a generalized view and understanding of the vector of foreign policy efforts by the President of Ukraine and his foreign-policy team (at the President’s Office and the MFA) at the end of 2019.
The fact that most responsibilities on negotiations with Russia in the context of implementing Minsk Agreements were shared between A. Yermak, aide to the President, and the MFA, resulted in the visible absence of the general strategy in Zelenskyy’s team for the de-occupation of Donbas and Crimea and for countering Russia’s hybrid aggression. The absence of a publicly presented vision led to difficult moments both domestically and in foreign relations, e.g. during the prisoners’ exchange (a situation with V. Tsemakh and the Netherlands), and in the run-up to the Normandy Four summit in Paris.
There was no specific Ukraine’s foreign policy strategy, concept or doctrine passed in 2019 that would clearly list priorities, objectives and ways to accomplish them, as well as resources for that. There have been traditionally lacking of regional and thematic strategies (public policies) for individual countries, as well as regions and functional directions.
During the year, some bilateral documents were signed with different countries, mostly of functional nature. In the context of the available bulk of strategic documents, the most present in these texts are such foreign-policy directions as the EU, NATO, the US, and the UK. The lowest grades of strategic vision have relations with France, Hungary, Iran, and Turkey, countries of the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Central Asia, as well as issues of international security and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons..
Activities “4 –”
Despite the change of the country leadership teams after the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine, and as a result of the parliament and government resets in 2019, the dynamics of international political dialogue remained high, while cooperation with certain countries expanded. Ukrainian government offices involved in the implementation of foreign policy remained highly active in accordance with the priorities outlined by President P. Poroshenko and his successor V. Zelenskyy.
Ukraine’s integration with the EU
traditionally received the highest score in the foreign policy activities section. Acting jointly, the President of Ukraine and the MFA in early 2019 managed to draw European partners’ attention to the need to give Ukraine political and financial support, in particular because of the Russian aggression in the Kerch Strait and an economic blockade of the Sea of Azov area. The EU monitoring mission worked in Ukraine to assess the scope of necessary European assistance to Ukrainian regions along the Sea of Azov.
In the context of the high-level dialogue, it is important to note that newly-elected President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy paid his first official foreign visit to Brussels as soon as in June. A month later, senior European officials came to Ukraine to take part in the 21st EU-Ukraine Summit. The 5th meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Committee was held in November in the context of the planned work of the high-level bilateral institutions. In 2019, official Kyiv initiated negotiations to update the Association Agreement, as well as on possible formats for the expansion and deepening of sectoral cooperation between Ukraine and the EU. In the course of the year, the issues of cooperation were discussed by bilateral and multilateral working groups, joint committees and subcommittees in the AA framework.
Ukraine’s activities in the framework of bilateral cooperation with G7 were quite diverse, being guided by the key foreign policy priorities, in particular in the context of consolidating support for countering Russian aggression, support for Ukraine’s strategic course towards the EU and NATO membership, as well as the strengthening of trade and security cooperation. Overall, in 2019, Ukraine managed to maintain positive balance of G7 decisions, which was favourable to its national interests, as well as a constructive focus on cooperation in bilateral relations.
Relations with Canada, Germany, France, and Japan characterised by the most intensive political contacts and the use of other cooperation formats. It is also worth noting proactive efforts in relations with other G7 states.
Relations with the USA in 2019 were mostly focused on the security dimension. The issues on the agenda included the purchase of precision weapons by Ukraine and receiving of other types of security and defence assistance. Cooperation aimed at maintaining US sanctions against Russia constituted a separate important direction. There were top-level contacts between Ukrainian President V. Zelenskyy and US President D. Trump. However, V. Zelenskyy’s full-fledged visit to the USA has not taken place despite Ukraine’s expectations. The use of unofficial communication channels, which did not involve the Ukrainian MFA, and the US domestic political struggle were among the factors that prevented the visit from happening.
In its relations with France and Germany, Ukraine sought to ensure that the EU maintains sanctions against Russia and that the pro-Ukrainian agenda dominates the Normandy Four’s negotiations, which resumed in the second half of 2019. The context of the Minsk agreements and the need to reinvigorate the Normandy format dominated the agenda of the French and German foreign ministers’ visits to Ukraine (May) and Ukrainian President V. Zelenskyy’s visits to Paris and Berlin (June). Apart from the June meeting, the Head of State held three phone conversations with E. Macron, and seven phone conversations and a working meeting with A. Merkel (September). Ukrainian-German dialogue in 2019 also involved an issue of energy security because of Berlin’s support for the Nord Stream 2 project, which contradicts Kyiv’s national security and energy interests.
Political dialogue with Canada maintained positive dynamics and focused on economic and security cooperation. The Ukrainian side’s joint efforts were concentrated on preparing and holding the International Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto (July). The numerous Ukrainian delegation was headed by President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy, who met Canadian Prime Minister J. Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs C. Freeland and the Ukrainian community in Canada.
The main leitmotif of Ukraine’s political dialogue with the United Kingdom was a striving to sign a comprehensive bilateral agreement that would regulate bilateral relations, including free trade, after Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Apart from Brexit, the dynamics of Ukrainian-British relations were influenced by domestic political developments in both countries and the intensification of confrontation between London and Moscow. Although there were no high-level meetings during the reporting period, active cooperation at the ministerial level continued, and senior Ukrainian officials, in particular the prime minister, visited London on numerous occasions.
Ukrainian-Japanese contacts enjoyed positive dynamics at the level of a political dialogue. For the first time, the Ukrainian President attended the enthronement of the Emperor of Japan. During his working visit to Japan (October), President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy met Prime Minister S. Abe and senior parliament members. During the year, active intergovernmental contacts focused on the implementation of energy, transport, agricultural and environmental projects in Ukraine.
There have been no significant positive developments in the Ukrainian-Italian bilateral relations, given the pro-Russian attitude of some Italian governmental political forces. In 2019, President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy had a working meeting with Prime Minister G. Conte on the side-lines of the UN GA. Above all, it focused on the situation with Ukrainian veteran of the antiterrorist operation V. Markiv detained in Italy. Amid the lack of significant prospects for the development of political dialogue, an attempt was made to intensify economic cooperation by increasing contacts at a governmental level and enhancing interparliamentary cooperation.
The Euro-Atlantic direction
in Ukraine’s foreign policy was also eventful in 2019. In the course of the year, both Presidents P. Poroshenko (February, May) and V. Zelenskyy (June, September, and October) had numerous meetings with NATO Secretary-General J. Stoltenberg. At the invitation of the Ukrainian authorities, the North Atlantic Council visited Ukraine in October for a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission chaired by the President of Ukraine and the NATO Secretary-General (at the level of ambassadors).
Intensive cooperation was observed in the format of the joint NATO-Ukraine working groups, as well in the Ukrainian participation in thematic committees and other NATO bodies. The MoD, the General Staff and individual branches of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were involved in cooperation and implementation of joint projects. Domestic efforts on the execution of Euro-Atlantic reforms focused on the implementation of the NATO-Ukraine Annual National Programme for 2019, as well as on a number of other implementation documents.
The issues of countering Russian hybrid aggression,
as well as consolidating support from key international partners, are among Ukraine’s foreign policy priorities closely related to the implementation of other geographical and functional objectives. The Ukrainian side held active consultations with partners to condemn military aggression against Ukraine in the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait, Russia’s continuing aggressive actions in the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea, militarisation of these territories, and violation of human rights. During the year, international organizations formats (the EU, NATO, OSCE, UN, and CoE) were actively used to attract attention and to promote Ukrainian initiatives aimed at enhancing international pressure against Russia, as well as at restoring sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
In the second half of 2019, V. Zelenskyy’s foreign policy team undertook active efforts to relaunch the trilateral contact group work in Minsk. Significant preparations were taken ahead of the meeting of the Normandy Four heads of state in Paris in December. The Normandy-track-related steps taken by V. Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian negotiation team prompted controversial reaction from Ukrainian politicians and civil society. In particular, the issue of including the so-called “Steinmeier formula” in the political part of the Minsk agreements’ implementation plan gave a reason for concerns.
Work has continued to maintain international solidarity with regard to sanctions against Russia. The MFA of Ukraine, through a network of foreign diplomatic missions at the bilateral and multilateral levels, was busy doing explanatory work in political, diplomatic, and expert circles, as well as working directly with the population of foreign countries. Non-governmental experts, academicians, and artists were also actively involved in information campaigns. A positive step, which became possible due to the release of Ukrainian political prisoners in September 2019, was a series of further advocacy campaigns with their participation in the EU countries and international institutions where they spoke about human rights abuses in the occupied territories and repression against Ukrainian citizens (Germany, France, Latvia, the EU and the OSCE institutions).
Ukrainian institutions’ continued efforts to hold Russia accountable under international law was an important direction in counteraction to its aggression.
The Ukrainian MFA and other institutions were busy preparing legal positions (Ukraine’s memoranda) and strategies of response (counter-memoranda) to be used in the UN International Court of Justice and the Arbitral Tribunal.
V. Zelenskyy’s team named “economization of foreign policy” among their foreign policy top priorities, what, in addition to political statements, resulted in a corresponding redistribution of government functions and an assignment of relevant tasks to the MFA in O. Honcharuk’s Government Programme. In the autumn, the Cabinet of Ministers audited current opportunities to intensify foreign economic activity. It announced an intention to amend the Ukrainian Export Strategy adopted at the end of 2017. In his public statements, the President of Ukraine repeatedly promised to pay priority attention to the protection of foreign business and investors in Ukraine. The First Investment Forum “RE:THINK. Invest in Ukraine” was organized under the President’s aegis in Mariupol in October to attract financial support for the Azov region.
Prime Minister of Ukraine O. Honcharuk focused on political support for new investment projects funded by international financial institutions (WB, EBRD, and EIB). At the government level, Ukraine’s Trade Representative T. Kachka was active both in Europe (updating the annexes to the Association Agreement and promoting the so-called “industrial visa free”) and in other strategic markets (China, the USA). In 2019, 15 bilateral intergovernmental economic commissions took place. The Ukrainian Export Promotion Office organized six trade missions to foreign countries (the UK, Georgia, Germany, India, Israel, and the UAE). During the reporting period, the MFA began modernizing the Council of Exporters and Investors, and also revised the scope of work of foreign diplomatic missions so that they could provide support for Ukrainian importers and exporters, search and attract foreign investments.
The foreign policy agenda also included the relations with neighbouring countries. During the 2019 election campaign the new political team of V. Zelenskyy criticised P. Poroshenko’s approach to relations with the neighbouring states, in particular Poland and Hungary. President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy visited Poland twice in six months. Right during the first visit, he had a working meeting with President A. Duda, at which they agreed to relaunch relations and soften the impact of historical events and their interpretation on the current bilateral agenda.
Despite declaring preparedness to look for a compromise on the issue of ethnic minority rights’ protection, official Kyiv did not hurry to further reveal its vision for relations with Hungary.
In May, V. Zelenskyy met Hungarian President J. Ader. The foreign ministers of the two countries had a working meeting on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly in September. Nevertheless, by the end of 2019 it was not clear when V. Zelenskyy and Hungarian Prime Minister V. Orban could meet, neither was there a roadmap to handle the difficult situation.
Ukraine’s relations with Slovakia and the Czech Republic have had positive dynamics despite the differently vectored views of their political elite. In addition to bilateral cooperation, the agenda of relations with Slovakia in 2019 included issues of multilateral regional cooperation (due to the OSCE presidency in 2019 and the V4 presidency in the first half of 2019). During the year, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Slovakia M. Lajcak repeatedly visited Ukraine in a capacity of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office. The President of Slovakia Z. Čaputová and the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic A. Babis paid official visits to Ukraine in the autumn. Prime Minister of Ukraine V. Groysman paid a working visit to Bratislava. A Ukrainian-Czech business forum was held in Kyiv. However, despite a busy schedule of exchanges of bilateral working and official visits, cooperation with Visegrad Four as a regional initiative remained low.
The political crises in Romania and Moldova, as well as elections in Ukraine, affected the intensity and effectiveness of contacts. Relations with Romania have failed to regain significant momentum. However, one of the positive developments was a working meeting between V. Zelenskyy and Romanian President K. Iohannis on the side-lines of the UN GA, during which the heads of state confirmed the need to intensify political dialogue.
The dialogue with the Republic of Belarus was stable and institutionally rich. The greatest emphasis was placed on economic cooperation. In particular, the large-scale 2nd Forum of the Regions of Belarus and Ukraine was held in Zhytomyr in October 2019. Over 1,000 participants from both countries took part in the event. The heads of state met on the side-lines of the forum.
Relations with Turkey and China should be mentioned separately because of V. Zelenskyy’s announced priority to strengthen cooperation with G20 countries.
Turkey has traditionally enjoyed a high level of attention from Ukraine despite a relatively small number of high-level contacts. In August, President V. Zelenskyy paid an official visit to Turkey and held meetings with the leadership of the state. Although the parties did not sign the FTA agreement, the dynamics of economic and military-technical cooperation remained high.
Despite the absence of a high-level political dialogue in relations with China, the Ukrainian side has taken steps to strengthen economic cooperation. President V. Zelenskyy has repeatedly held meetings with Chinese diplomatic and business circles to encourage the expansion of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. At the governmental level, there were traditional contacts that led to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the beginning of preparation of a bilateral cooperation plan for the joint development of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road Maritime”.
Despite the overall decline in political activity with regard to Israel compared to previous years, it is worth noting that the Prime Minister of Israel paid his first visit to Ukraine in 20 years. In particular, the sides discussed the possibility of expanding the free trade area and enhancing cooperation in the field of innovation.
In terms of the overall regional approach to the implementation of foreign policy, Ukraine’s political and diplomatic cooperation with the Baltic states and Northern Europe was most active.
In autumn 2019, President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy paid official visits to as many as three Baltic states. President of Finland S. Niinisto (September) and Prime Minister of Sweden S. Löfven (December) paid official visits to Ukraine. On the side-lines of the UN GA, V. Zelenskyy met Prime Minister of Norway E. Solberg. The high dynamics were, first and foremost, related to the need to consolidate the countries’ positions on countering Russian aggression, support for reforms in Ukraine, as well as to develop common stands at the level of international organizations.
A number of important initiatives and joint projects have been implemented with the Black Sea countries, given the region’s priority for Ukraine’s security and economic interests. Since the beginning of 2019, the Ukrainian side has made efforts to form an international monitoring mission that would help it to restore navigation and prevent further aggression of Russia against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, but has failed to do so. There has been active cooperation with NATO in the development of programmes aimed at boosting the presence of the Alliance in the Black Sea.
Ukraine continued its cooperation within the framework of international organizations in the region. Emphasis was placed on active involvement in GUAM, while BSEC was not a priority due to the presence of the Russian Federation in it. In 2019, Ukraine presided over GUAM. As a result, the GUAM Summit at the level of heads of government was held in Kyiv in December. They issued a joint statement and signed protocols of intent to further liberalize trade and economic cooperation (creation of the FTA, development of transport corridors, and liberalization of the services market). Particular attention within the region was paid to cooperation with the Black Sea Bank for Trade and Development, as well as the Black Sea Border Cooperation Forum.
In 2019, Ukraine became more active in Latin America. The region has significant untapped potential for economic cooperation and expansion of markets for Ukrainian exports. Presidents P. Poroshenko and V. Zelenskyy had working meetings with the President of Brazil J. Bolsonaro on the side-lines of international events. Contacts and political consultations at the level of the MFA have intensified.
Western Balkans did not receive much attention from Ukraine in 2019. Most of the contacts took place at the intergovernmental and interagency level. Economic cooperation took a priority place among Ukrainian interests in the region. The most active economic cooperation was with Slovenia.
The Middle East as a region has also lacked a high-level political attention from Ukraine. The main reference point in cooperation with the countries of the region was trade and economic cooperation, as well as an implementation of projects in energy, agriculture, defence industry, and education. Cooperation with Qatar and the UAE was most active. Iran remained among the outsiders of Ukraine’s foreign policy due to the extension of the US sanctions against it.
The Asia-Pacific region enjoyed moderate foreign policy attention. Security issues (Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia in the context of the MH17 air crash investigation) and the elaboration of a legal framework for bilateral relations (visa liberalisation, avoidance of double taxation) dominated the agenda.
In South Asia, Ukraine carried out its policy most actively in India, where its significant economic interests are concentrated. From time to time, Ukrainian-Indian intergovernmental contacts were aimed at promoting Ukraine’s investment opportunities, cooperation in space sphere, education, and visa liberalization. However, attention to other countries was low, in particular due to the lack of resources. One embassy in India covers six countries of the region at once.
Bilateral cooperation in Central Asia, except for Kazakhstan (V. Zelenskyy’s working meetings with N. Nazarbayev and K. Tokayev), was carried out at the level of the MFA and diplomatic missions, which shows a low priority of the region for promotion of Ukrainian goods, in particular due to the strong presence of Russia there.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ukraine built the most active political contacts with Kenya during the reporting period. Kenyan National Assembly Speaker J. Muturi paid an official visit to Kyiv in May. In addition to Kenya, there was an increase in contacts between the foreign offices of Ukraine and Senegal, South Africa, Mali, and Mozambique. In particular, two new honorary consulates were opened in the region (Liberia and Djibouti). Ukrainian peacekeepers are currently involved in four UN missions in Africa (DR Congo, South Sudan, the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, and the Republic of Mali).
In terms of cooperation with international organisations, Ukraine was most active at the level of the UN, given its universal profile and the most widespread institutional network. The fact that Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the UN was replaced in no time speaks of the importance of this area of activities. In 2019, Ukraine was less active in contributing to the resolution of global problems but was nevertheless proactive in protecting its national interests and counteracting Russian aggression. The President of Ukraine traditionally attended the UN General Assembly meeting. Active diplomatic efforts were taken in New York, Geneva, and Vienna, focusing, among other issues, on human rights, nuclear non-proliferation, innovations, heath care, gender equality, and so on.
Ukraine more actively cooperated with the OSCE in 2019. The positive dynamics were maintained thanks to Slovakia’s chairmanship in the organisation, which paid priority attention to issues concerning Russian aggression. The work of the trilateral contact group resumed on the initiative of Ukraine, which also boosted its cooperation with the SMM OSCE. The presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine prompted an additional dimension of cooperation with the OSCE institutions, in particular with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Cooperation with the Council of Europe has been developing in accordance with its Action Plan for Ukraine for 2018-2021. However, most attention was paid to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Ukraine where the Ukrainian side and its partners attempted to prevent the return of the Russian delegation without any restrictions or requirements to implement the Assembly resolutions.
Taking part in international multilateral initiatives, Ukrainian representatives focused on human rights issues and climate projects. International security and nuclear non-proliferation initiatives, in which Ukraine has recently been losing its positions, received less attention.
The importance of public diplomacy in the system of foreign policy instruments should be noted separately. The MFA actively contributed to the building of Ukraine’s positive image abroad through capacity of its foreign diplomatic missions and targeted information campaigns (#JusticeForMH17, #LetMyPeopleGo, #StopNordStream2, #CorrectUA). Measures were taken to promote Ukrainian filmmakers and book publishers. Work on the institutional development of the Ukrainian Institute continued.
Despite the change of the government team in 2019, the main strategic directions of the country’s foreign policy, which have taken shape over the past five years, have not undergone major readjustment. President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko’s activities in the first half of 2019 were in line with the priorities he had repeatedly declared in the previous years, and foreign policy was among the central themes of his communication with voters.
During the election campaign, V. Zelenskyy was careful in making statements and declaring clear foreign policy positions. This had its effect on the implementation of foreign policy in the second half of the year. Emphasis was placed on promoting Ukrainian exports and attracting foreign investment, as well as on continuing the course towards the EU and NATO membership, and consolidating international support against Russian aggression.
Analysing the results of Ukraine’s foreign policy in 2019, it is reasonable to first focus on what has been achieved along the mentioned strategic directions.
By the end of 2019, positive results in terms of Ukraine’s EU integration have been achieved both in the political and security dimensions, and in financial and economic cooperation. The EU-Ukraine Summit Joint Declaration (July) was an important evidence of political support for Ukraine. The EU’s political leadership reaffirmed its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, its reforms and European integration course. It is important that a reboot of the EU institutions after the elections to the European Parliament in May 2019 did not change Brussels’ position regarding support for Ukraine.
The most significant achievement in this regard is that the EU has preserved and extended sanctions against Russia over its occupation of Crimea and military aggression in Donbas. In particular, it extended by six months targeted sanctions against Russian citizens in September and economic and sectoral sanctions in December. The EU slapped Russia with additional sanctions over its aggression in the Kerch Strait. Because of populist and pro-Russian government forces in some EU countries, Kyiv had to take extra foreign policy efforts regarding every EU member state in order to preserve the joint European position.
In 2019, Brussels offered important mediation in the EU-Russia-Ukraine trilateral talks on the Kyiv-Moscow contract on the transit of the Russian gas across Ukraine in accordance with the EU standards, which was agreed at the end of the year.
At the November meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Committee in Brussels, the Ukrainian side suggested launching the talks on updating the Association Agreement. An official application outlining Ukraine’s position ahead of further talks is being prepared. As part of the domestic implementation of the AA, the new government held a “European integration” meeting (November), at which it updated the plan of measures for the implementation of the AA. It was decided that it was necessary to reach additional agreements with the EU on regional development, integrated border management, migration control, and judiciary reform. The introduction of a management and control system for the implementation of the Agreement on Financing the Danube Transnational Programme gave Ukraine access to the European Neighbourhood Instrument resources to carry out international projects in the region (5 mln euros).
The Verkhovna Rada ratified international agreements, thus unblocking 472 mln euros in loans and grants from international financial organisations for infrastructure projects in Ukraine. However, the issue of the second tranche (500 mln euros) under the fourth EU macro-financial assistance programme was not unblocked in 2019.
In 2019, the key outcomes of NATO-Ukraine cooperation concerned the internal dimension of reforms and adaptation, the provision of financial and advisory assistance, and the preservation of solidarity among the Alliance members in supporting Ukraine in counteracting Russian aggression. In March, North Atlantic Council issued a remarkable statement on the fifth anniversary of the occupation of Crimea, in which it reaffirmed full support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and condemned Russia’s attempt to further militarize the Black Sea region.
To enhance cooperation with NATO, the Ukrainian side officially requested to join the Enhanced Opportunity Partnership Programme (EOP) during the North Atlantic Council’s visit to Ukraine (October), but the initiative has not received full support of all Alliance members yet.
An updated version of the NATO-Ukraine Roadmap on Defence and Technical Cooperation was signed based on the results of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group meeting in December.
In October, Ukraine and NATO agreed on an updated package of NATO assistance projects and practical activities, in particular within the framework of the so-called Black Sea Package approved in April. Cooperation with the Alliance within the Trust Funds continued, particularly the implementation of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices Trust Fund was started (February) and the Situational Awareness Project under the Command, Control, Communications Trust Fund was initiated (November).
Ukraine continues to participate in NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. However, although the Alliance recognised Ukraine as a potential operational partner of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq (April), the President has not signed the relevant decree yet. Ukraine has not finished the process of joining the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence although it was a Government Programme’s objective for 2018.
By the end of 2019, no decision has been found on how to unblock the high-level NATO-Ukraine Commission, which is being blocked by Hungary due to specific issues on the bilateral Ukrainian-Hungarian agenda.
In 2019, significant results were achieved in countering Russian aggression, as well as consolidating international support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and increasing pressure on the Russian Federation within various international organizations.
At the UN level, Ukrainian diplomatic efforts brought numerous positive results. In December, the UN GA adopted two enhanced resolutions “The problem of militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine), as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (9.12) and “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (18.12). In particular, the resolutions now refer to the 1974 UN GA Resolution 3314 (XXIX), which defines the concept of aggression, requires the Russian Federation to stop its policy of changing the demographic situation in Crimea, pointing to significant violations of international humanitarian law, etc. In addition, by working with international partners, Ukraine managed to prevent Russia from putting the Law of Ukraine “On Languages” (May, July) for consideration by the UN SC.
The report by the UN Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Crimea and Sevastopol (September) indicated violations of international law and human rights abuses by the Russian occupying authorities. Bringing Russia to account in international courts was a separate trend in countering aggression, which had significant positive achievements in 2019. The United Nations judicial and arbitration institutions deserve special attention here. For example, in May, the International Maritime Law Tribunal announced the application of temporary measures to Russia for violating the immunity of three Ukrainian warships and 24 crewmembers during an incident in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. However, despite the Tribunal’s order, under which Russia was to return the ships and the captives within a month, the return took place only in September as part of a bilateral exchange, which also included other 11 Ukrainian prisoners. Moreover, Russia returned the Ukrainian warships only in November. Ukrainian diplomats and lawyers have succeeded in blocking Russia’s efforts to delay the arbitration process in the ship-and-sailors case. In November, the tribunal decided to shorten the time for the preparation of the Memorandum of Ukraine (May 2020) in order to quickly review the case.
In November, the UN International Court of Justice issued a ruling in the case of Ukraine v. Russia regarding violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. The Court dismissed Russia’s attempt to challenge the Court’s jurisdiction and allowed the case to proceed to the merits phase.
There were mixed results of work in the Council of Europe in 2019 in the context of counteracting Russia’s hybrid aggression, compared to previous years. Political statements by leadership of the CoE as well as some powerful European states (France, Germany) about the need to maintain Russia’s membership of the Organization have seriously changed the situation. During the PACE winter and spring sessions, the Ukrainian delegation ensured the adoption of two resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression in the Kerch Strait and procedurally hampering Russia’s return to work in the Assembly without fulfilling its obligations. However, in the summer, the mandate of the Russian delegation was restored without any sanctions or restrictions, prompting the Ukrainian delegation to boycott the autumn session. A positive but few in numbers was an initiative to establish the Baltic Plus group of MPs in the PACE framework (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine, as well as individual MPs from the United Kingdom), which seeks condemnation for the occupation of the territories of Ukraine and Georgia by Russia.
Cooperation with the OSCE was also aimed at maintaining continued attention to the problem of Russian aggression in all institutional dimensions. Numerous visits by the OSCE high-ranking officials, including senior diplomats from Slovakia, who chaired over the Organization in 2019, can indicate considerable attention to the problem. At the annual session of the OSCE PA, the Ukrainian delegation made sure that it adopted the Resolution on the Militarization of Temporarily Occupied Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, the Black Sea, and the Sea of Azov by Russia (July). Ukraine also managed to draw attention by holding an information event on the side-lines of the December meeting of the Council of Ministers with the participation of O. Sentsov and R. Sushchenko, who had been released from the Russian captivity.
At the same time, quite predictably, the 26th session of the OSCE Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which was held in Bratislava in December, did not adopt any documents concerning Ukraine. Because of the Russian blocking, Ukraine has failed to ensure that the OSCE SMM carries out its functions in full and that its mandate at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints is expanded.
The Trilateral Contact Group on a Donbas settlement intensified its work in 2019. In particular, it contributed to the unblocking of a meeting of the heads of state in the Normandy format in December 2019.
The new political team paid considerable attention to economisation of foreign policy, both at the level of political statements and at the level of government plans and actions, in particular to improving the terms of trade with the EU, restoring US trade preferences, and developing economic cooperation with China. The new government led by O. Honcharuk has continued most of the international trade development projects launched by V. Groysman’s team. With regard to the EU, the focus was on achieving compliance with the conditions of adherence to the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA). At the end of the year, quotas for duty-free import of poultry meat by Ukrainian exporters to the EU countries were increased.
In October, the USA reinstated trading preferences for the vast majority of Ukrainian goods that were withdrawn from the US Generalized System of Preferences in 2018.
The Free Trade Agreement with Israel was signed in 2019 (January), but Israel has not ratified it yet due to internal political developments. Also, despite preliminary plans, the FTA between Ukraine and Turkey has not been signed by the end of 2019.
An intergovernmental agreement with China on granting Ukraine USD 30 mln in free technical and economic assistance was approved in April. The sides also signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the beginning of preparation of a bilateral cooperation plan for the joint development of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
For the first time, the resolution entitled ” Strengthening of international cooperation on asset recovery and the administration of frozen, seized and confiscated assets “, which was drafted by Assets Recovery and Management Agency of Ukraine, was adopted at the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (December, the UAE)
At the same time, the year of 2019 saw a lack of coordination among state institutions, which were supposed to create a system of support for Ukrainian exports and attraction of investment. Whereas the Export Promotion Office was busy with conducting trade missions to different countries, the work of the International Trade Council and the Export Credit Agency was almost invisible. The MFA focused its attention on adjusting the work of its Council of Exporters and Investors, as well as promoting the investment attractiveness of Ukraine. Bilateral intergovernmental commissions were one of the major tools for stepping up trade and economic cooperation. However, it was only in November that the government was able to relaunch the Ukrainian parts of joint intergovernmental commissions and appoint their heads. This slowed down the dynamics of bilateral meetings, some of which were postponed to 2020. In addition to the institutional weakness, it is also worth noting the low level of implementation of the Export Strategy of Ukraine, which was adopted in 2017. To supplement and advance the export vision, Ukraine approved the Strategy for the Development of Export of Agricultural, Food and Processing Industry Products of Ukraine until 2026 and a plan of objectives and measures for its implementation (July).
Overall, in 2019, exports of Ukrainian goods increased by 5.8% compared to the previous year (USD 50 bln), and imports to Ukraine by 6.3% (almost USD 61 bln). The negative balance amounted to USD 10.7 bln. The largest trading partner of Ukraine is the EU, accounting for 41% of Ukrainian exports (USD 20 bln) and nearly as much in imports (USD 24 bln).
The top 15 partners, where Ukraine exports its goods are China (7.2% of total exports), Poland (6.6%), Russia (6.5%), Turkey (5.2%), Germany (4.8%), Italy (4.8%), Egypt (4.5%), India (4%), the Netherlands (3.7%), Belarus (3.1%), Hungary (3.1%), Spain (3%), the USA (2%), Romania (2%), the Czech Republic (1.8%), and Moldova (1.5%). In 2019, exports grew most rapidly (40% of growth and more) to Australia, Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ireland, Kuwait, Malaysia, North Macedonia, and Thailand. Despite the low relative numbers, it is worth mentioning the countries where Ukraine has increased its exports over 2.5 times, namely Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, DR Congo, Guyana, Guatemala, Ecuador, Laos, Mauritius, Madagascar, Niger, Paraguay, Zambia, etc.
There was a significant drop (more than 20%) in exports to such countries as Argentina, Bosnia, Chile, Georgia, Iran, Finland, Malta, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and others. In addition, there was a slight decline in exports to such important partners of Ukraine as Bulgaria, India, Italy, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and the United States.
Metallurgical and machine-building products were gradually replaced as the prevailing export positions by agro-industrial products. In 2019, exports of cereals were almost 34% up, mainly as a result of deliveries to China.
The top 15 largest importers to Ukraine are the following countries: China (15.1%), Russia (11.5%), Germany (9.9%), Poland (6.7%), Belarus (6.2%), the United States (5.4%), Turkey (3.9%), Italy (3.4%), France (2.7%), Switzerland (2.6%), Hungary (2%), Lithuania (1.9%), the Czech Republic (1.9%), Japan (1.6%), and Spain (1.4%). The highest increase in imports (over 20%) was recorded with such trading partners as Australia, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Georgia, Estonia, Jordan, Japan, Lithuania, Morocco, Montenegro, Romania, Spain, and Turkey.
The highest indicators of negative balance (over USD 1 bln) in Ukraine’s trade with foreign countries in 2019 were registered with China (-USD 5.6 bln), Russia (-USD 3.7 bln), Germany (-USD 3.6 bln), the USA (-USD 2.3 bln), Belarus (-USD 2.2 bln), Switzerland (-USD 1.5 bln), and France (-USD 1 bln).
In cooperation with G7 countries, Ukraine paid considerable attention to the issues of forming a common position on the restoration of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, the inadmissibility of Russia’s return to the Group until the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored, and support for reforms in Ukraine. In trade and economic cooperation, Germany, Italy, and the USA were the largest trading partners of Ukraine among the G7 states.
Both the Presidential Office of Ukraine and the MFA worked closely with France and Germany to ensure support for the Ukrainian position in the framework of preparing and holding the Normandy format summit of heads of state and government in Paris on 9 December.
Agreements and contracts with France signed during the year are of predominantly limited and applied nature. For example, a framework international agreement was signed to implement a project to modernize Mariupol’s water supply system (29.01). France remains the fourth largest European investor in Ukraine.
Political and economic cooperation with Germany has been more active. However, despite the generally positive dynamics of bilateral relations, Ukraine has failed to change Germany’s position on the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline from Russia. Though, during the high-level contacts, it was agreed that Berlin would support the need to maintain gas transit through the territory of Ukraine. With Germany’s direct involvement, an agreement on gas transit was signed on 31 December. Germany remains one of Ukraine’s main trading partners.
Relations with the USA were of strategic importance. Washington has repeatedly expressed support for Ukraine at various political levels, including in the context of new forms of Russian aggression in the Kerch Strait and the issuance of Russian passports in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (ORDLO). The US role in preventing Russia and individual EU countries from implementing the Nord Stream-2 project, in particular by imposing sanctions on companies implementing this project in December, should be noted separately. Defence and security support for Ukraine increased in 2019. Among other things, the USA agreed the sale of Javelin systems worth USD 39 mln to Ukraine and increased support for Kyiv in the National Defense Authorization Act (USD 300 mln in 2020). In the context of energy security, Ukraine, the USA, and Poland signed the trilateral Energy Memorandum. At the same time, in 2019, Ukraine found itself at the epicentre of the US domestic political rivalry ahead of the presidential election, which negatively affected the dynamics of Ukrainian-American cooperation (for example, the delay in security assistance to Ukraine).
Canada is one of the most active advocates of Ukraine at international arena, including in NATO, the UN, and G7. It is worth noting that in March, in coordination with the USA and the EU, Canada introduced the largest sanction package against Russia since 2014 due to its military aggression in the Kerch Strait. The main event in bilateral relations with Canada in 2019 was the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto. Canada provided a new USD 45-mln reform support package to Ukraine. Also, a decision was made in March to expand and continue the UNIFIER military training mission until March 2022. Overall, despite the small trade and its decline in 2019, a positive development was an increase in the share of Ukrainian exports to Canada thanks to the free trade agreement.
Ukrainian-British dialogue in 2019 concentrated on shaping the future framework for bilateral relations after Brexit, given London’s focus on finding ways and legal formats for completing its political “divorce” with the EU. Ukraine’s intensive negotiations with the United Kingdom have led to a new full-fledged agreement, which could be concluded in 2020. The UK is the third largest investor in the Ukrainian economy with the total investment of almost USD 2 bln. Like Canada, the United Kingdom is a significant contributor to the training of Ukrainian servicemen (Operation “ORBITAL”). In addition, the United Kingdom has announced the allocation of more than 37 mln pounds to support reforms in Ukraine next year. A Protocol on Amendments to the Agreement on International Road Transport was signed in 2019.
Cooperation with Japan in 2019 was conducted both directly at the bilateral level and at the level of the UN agencies implementing projects in Ukraine (UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNOPS). The Japanese government allocated USD 2.82 mln to meet Ukraine’s humanitarian needs. In trade, there was a revival in terms of imports and exports, with a total turnover reaching USD 1.2 bln. During the year, the sides signed various agreements, including on the prevention of money laundering, on the granting of a non-project grant to the Government of Ukraine to buy special equipment for the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, etc.
An analysis of the development of bilateral relations with Italy in 2019 shows that, despite some problematic issues related to the pro-Russian stance of some influential Italian political forces, the Italian side continued to declare support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for continued EU sanctions against Russia. Total trade between Ukraine and Italy in 2019 amounted to USD 4.48 bln with a slight drop in Ukrainian exports.
President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy saw relations with neighbouring states as a priority direction of the foreign policy and directed diplomats’ work towards establishing good neighbourly and partner-like relations with them.
The countries of the Visegrad Group expressed their continued support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Poland strongly supported Ukraine during its non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2018-2019. Slovakia, as the OSCE chair in 2019, has significantly contributed to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to counteract Russian aggression. In terms of trade, all V4 countries are among the top 20 importers and exporters (V4 countries account for almost 17% of total turnover). However, there were no meetings of intergovernmental commissions on economic cooperation during the year. In 2019, the issue of Poland granting Ukrainian carriers insufficient permits for international haulage remained acute. At the same time, Ukraine and Slovakia managed to sign the Declaration on the Use of the Slovak Airspace for Uzhgorod International Airport and to increase the number of flights. They also signed the Agreement on Amendments to the bilateral Agreement on Local Border Traffic dated 2008.
There have been significant changes in political dialogue with Poland. In September 2019, Kyiv lifted a moratorium on search works at Polish burial sites. In response, Warsaw expressed its readiness to restore a vandalised Ukrainian monument in Podkarpackie Voivodeship.
Despite positive expectations in 2019, Ukraine and Hungary have failed to settle the bilateral dispute over the provisions of the Ukrainian language legislation. Against this background, the Hungarian side continued to block the activities of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. Among other issues, because of the blocking by the Hungarian side, Ukraine failed to resume full participation in the V4+Ukraine format.
Romania remains an important partner in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and is one of the top 20 trading partners of Ukraine. In 2019, an important inter-operator agreement was signed between gas companies of the two countries. At the same time, the approval of the Protocol on Cooperation in Education has been stalling and the expectations for the launch of the railway connection along the Chernivtsi-Suceava route have not been justified.
The political crisis in Moldova in 2019 prevented the sides from achieving significant results in bilateral cooperation. Nevertheless, Moldova’s political position was clearly manifested when the two countries made their joint political stands within the Eastern Partnership initiative and in GUAM.
Ukraine developed consistent political contacts with both members of GUAM – Moldova and Georgia. In May, the governments of Ukraine and Georgia signed a protocol on amendments to the Free Trade Agreement dated 9 January 1995. The protocol creates conditions for applying the Regional Convention on pan-Euro-Mediterranean preferential rules of origin to bilateral trade.
Mostly economic focus was also typical for Ukrainian-Belarusian relations. The 2nd Forum of Regions of Ukraine and Belarus in Zhytomyr (October), in which the two heads of state took part, was a remarkable event. A number of bilateral documents, as well as 40 commercial contracts worth over USD 500 mln, were signed during the forum.
Cooperation with the Baltic states, Ukraine’s strategic allies in counteraction to Russian aggression and supporters for its European integration prospects, was important. In the autumn, PACE delegates formed a group, Baltic Plus, which brought together representatives of countries that disagreed with Russia’s return to the Assembly. The development of digital technology, cyber security, and agro-industrial cooperation were among the important issues of bilateral cooperation with the Baltic countries. Among other things, Ukraine and Lithuania signed the Declaration on development of strategic partnership for 2020-2024 and the Declaration of Intent on Cyber Security. During an official visit of the Ukrainian delegation to Tallinn, the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Information Technology of Estonia signed a Memorandum on IT sector cooperation. A Memorandum of Understanding between the justice ministries of Ukraine and Latvia was signed during President V. Zelenskyy’s visit to the country.
Northern Europe preserved unity in supporting Ukraine in counteracting Russian aggression. In 2019, the countries of the region boosted support for humanitarian projects in Donbas. Finland allocated an additional 600,000 euros to mine clearance. Sweden and Norway provided significant assistance. However, there are no results of cooperation with Iceland at all.
In the Western Balkans, the top level of political dialogue and cooperation was registered with Croatia, Albania, and Slovenia. In particular, as NATO members, these countries provided practical assistance to Ukraine in humanitarian mine clearance projects and in carrying out reforms under the NATO standards. It is important that within the Croatia’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2020, Zagreb reaffirmed its support for Ukraine’s membership of the EU and NATO and expressed solidarity in counteraction to Russian aggression. Tirana also expressed its support for Ukraine as it was preparing to chair the OSCE in 2020. The governments of Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina signed an Agreement on Tourism Cooperation. The highest increase in trade cooperation was registered with North Macedonia and Montenegro (double up), while the biggest volume of trade turnover was seen with Serbia and Slovenia.
Functional ministerial relations with Middle East countries have seen a boost. Various memoranda, protocols, and agreements with Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, the UAE, and Tunisia in finance, justice, education and agriculture were signed in the course of the year. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE remained Ukraine’s main trading partners in the region, showing a trend towards an increase in turnover. There was a significant increase in exports to Qatar (by 25%), Kuwait (by 25%), and Oman (by 34%).
The Black Sea region did not receive much attention in 2019, except for security, which had its impact on the results of Ukraine’s foreign policy in this direction. At the December summit, the heads of government of the ODED-GUAM member states agreed to implement the free trade area, while customs offices of GUAM member states intend to mutually recognise authorised economic operators.
In other regions, especially remote ones like Central Asia, South Asia, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America, Ukraine continued its diplomatic efforts with a view to liberalising interpersonal and business contacts. Two international agreements reached by Ukraine with Dominica and North Macedonia on the cancellation of visa requirements to holders of diplomatic and official passports came into effect in 2019. Six international agreements, which relax travel regulations for citizens were signed (Colombia, Ecuador, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Argentina, and Sri Lanka). Protocols on amendments to the double tax conventions (Cyprus, Turkey, and Singapore) and the treaty on avoiding double taxation (Malaysia) were ratified.
Among the countries of Central and South America, and the Caribbean, Ukraine held the most active dialogue with Brazil. A joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Dominica was signed in April, with Grenada, St Vincent, and the Grenadines in September. The number of Ukraine’s trade and economic partners in the region grew from 25 in 2018 to 26 in 2019. In June, the Cabinet of Ministers authorised a USD 40,000 voluntary contribution to the Organization of American States on behalf of Ukraine as a permanent observer interested in developing cooperation with North and South American states. Bilateral documents at the levels of chambers of commerce and cities were signed in the course of the year.
South Asian countries are the biggest importers of Ukrainian agricultural products. India maintains the lead in trade and economic cooperation, accounting for nearly 7% of Ukrainian agricultural exports. A positive development was the establishment of relations with the government and parliament of Afghanistan. Following the first meeting of the intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation, the sides signed a respective protocol. Ukraine and Bangladesh resumed active dialogue on migration.
There were no significant achievements in multilateral cooperation in 2019. In terms of its climate change commitments, Ukraine focused on implementing domestic tasks in accordance with the Agreement with the EU. The country continued to carry out its commitments on nuclear non-proliferation. Human rights activities were centred on cases against Russia in international courts and protection of human rights in occupied Crimea and Donbas. As far as international security is concerned, Ukraine limited its activities to the UN and NATO.
In 2019, in the sphere of public diplomacy the MFA carried out over 300 public activities, including 190 image projects, as part of the budget-paid programme for building Ukraine’s international positive image. The Ukrainian Institute started implementing projects, mostly cultural ones. The government sponsored participation in international events for over 100 Ukrainian experts, civil activists, and artists, who presented their positions or projects abroad. However, the Strategy of Public Diplomacy, which has been in the making for years, has not been finished by the end of 2019. Bilateral expert forums with Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Belarus were held in cooperation with the Public Council under the MFA. Foreign journalists’ visits to Ukraine were organized in cooperation with partner organisations.