25th anniversary of relations between Belgium and Ukraine - 10 March 2017
Today, Belgium celebrates the 25th anniversary of its relations with Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders welcomes this celebration, which crowns a rich and diversified bilateral relationship. He also pays tribute to the friendship between our two peoples and wishes the Ukrainian people great harmony and prosperity. He reiterates Belgium's support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Our countries have strengthened their political, economic, cultural, educational and commercial exchanges since Ukraine's declaration of independence and the establishment of diplomatic relations on 10 March 1992. Strengthening these links yet further, Ukraine has concluded an Association Agreement with an ambitious commercial component with the European Union and its Member States. To this effect, it has implemented remarkable reforms which illustrate that our two countries want to strengthen their relations on the basis of respect for the rule of law and democratic values.
The many high-level political contacts since 1992 demonstrate the mutual importance we attach to developing our relationship. His Majesty King Philippe held a meeting with President Petro Porochenko as recently as 2016. Over the last few years, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders has visited Kiev on several occasions to meet President Porochenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and several Ministers. In 2016, during their respective visits to Belgium, he hosted Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin and the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European integration, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze. Also in 2016, Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters met his counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv. These are just a few recent examples.
Regular meetings have also taken place at parliamentary level, and there has been a number of cultural exchanges, all of which help to strengthen the links that unite us and lead to greater mutual understanding.
The links forged over the last 25 years build on an older joint economic history, as Belgium made a significant contribution to Ukraine's industrial development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Reconnecting with this past, Belgian businesses were among the first to invest in Ukraine after its independence. Economic exchanges between our countries have grown ever since. A number of missions led by the Belgian Foreign Trade Office (OBCE/BDBH) and then by regional bodies have helped to make the commercial strengths of both countries better known, particularly in the areas of chemical products, machines and equipment. The Joint Economic Commission, which met in Kiev on 21 September 2016, highlighted the wealth of our commercial exchanges and investments and demonstrated that exchanges are starting to increase again after a few rather difficult years. The deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union can only help to further diversify the Ukrainian economy and strengthen our exchanges.
Belgium therefore welcomes this anniversary and is ready to strengthen its relations with Ukraine, while respecting values such as the rule of law, the free market and multilateral cooperation in the areas of peace and security.