Ukrainian Prism: Foreign Policy 2019 got C+

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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.


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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”



Ukraine`s Foreign Policy Scores 2019: the lighter the color, the higher is the score for bilateral cooperation




G -7 countries cooperation

В+ United Kingdom

C+ Italy

B+ Canada

В+ Germany


C+ France

B- Japan


A- European Union

B Eastern Partnership

B- European Energy Community




B+ Belarus

B- Georgia

B+ Israel

E+ Iran

C China

B+ Lithuania

C Moldova

B+ Poland

C Romania

B- Slovakia

C+ Turkey

C- Hungary

B- Czech Republic

C Russia


C Asia-Pacific Region

C+ Middle East

C+ Western Balkans


C Visegrad Four


C- Latin America

C+ South Asia

C- Sub-Saharan Africa

D+ Central Asia

B- Black Sea Region

International Organizations

B United Nations

B+ Council of Europe



B- Human rights

C+ Climate Change

D- Nuclear Non-proliferation

D+ International security

C+ Consolidation of International Support on Countering Russian Aggression

C+ Economic diplomacy

B+ Public Diplomacy

B- Ukrainians Abroad



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. 1. strengthening international support for Ukraine in restoring its territorial integrity and sovereignty;
  2. 2. finding support for Ukraine’s course towards EU and NATO membership among international partners;
  3. 3. developing partnership relations with the G7 and G20 member-states;
  4. 4. developing partnership relations with the neighbour countries;
  5. 5. effective foreign policy support to Ukraine’s economic development (economic diplomacy);
  6. 6. contributing to Ukraine’s positive image in the world, including via tools of cultural diplomacy;
  7. 7. strengthening protection of Ukrainian citizens and legal entities abroad;
  8. 8. cooperating with Ukrainians abroad; and
  9. 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.


Results “3+”


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.