|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Intervention at NATO-Ukraine Commission Ministerial, NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium, December 14, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. Secretary General, distinguished colleagues, this sixth ministerial meeting of the Commission is our first with Foreign Minister Zlenko. The United States looks forward to working with him closely to further strengthen the NATO-Ukraine relationship.
Today's Commission meeting will be my last. So, for me, it is an apt time to take stock of the progress we have made and the challenges we still face.
From the beginning, we have shared a common vision of an independent and prosperous Ukraine, fully integrated into a Europe whole and free. And we have agreed that Ukraine's partnership with NATO can be a key element in ensuring Ukraine's security and even its sovereignty.
But we also know that the success of Europe's new democracies must rest on a foundation of reforms at home. And the NATO-Ukraine relationship cannot keep advancing unless Ukraine itself is making headway.
The Ukrainian people have made it clear at the ballot box they want to press forward with essential reforms, not slide backward toward a Communist past. And President Kuchma's new government has taken some encouraging steps to fulfill that mandate.
Recent breakthroughs on the budget, banking and energy are paving the way for renewed lending by international financial institutions. And tomorrow's long-awaited shutdown of Chernobyl will close a dark chapter in history on a bright note.
But much more remains to be done to improve the investment climate through sound privatization and fighting corruption. And firm measures must be taken to protect judicial independence and press freedom--including a prompt and credible investigation into the disappearance of Heorhiy Gongadze.
We all know that stubborn problems demand innovative solutions. But we also have seen ample evidence that Ukraine's partnership with NATO is capable of taking such innovative approaches.
The new Ukrainian-Polish Peacekeeping Battalion has already made important contributions to stability in the Balkans. The Liaison Office in Kiev continues to yield dividends. And next year's Work Plan sets out an ambitious agenda for cooperation in untraditional areas from civil emergency planning to air traffic control.
These are significant steps, but many more are required if our partnership is to reach its full potential.
Defense reform efforts in Ukraine have lagged. Budget shortfalls have limited new reform initiatives. And our cooperation is still constrained by regulations that inhibit the sharing of information.
NATO wants to help Ukraine move forward. We are ready to help Ukraine improve its budget planning. We are urging stronger parliamentary oversight and civilian control of the military. And we know it is in our interest to help Ukraine achieve interoperability and develop a rapid deployment force.
Ukraine's decision to bring its defense planning closer to NATO's is encouraging. Now the emphasis must shift from planning to execution. We must be practical and follow through.
NATO is committed to this distinctive partnership for the long run. We are here because we all have a stake in Ukraine's success.
We have no illusions about the difficulties with which Ukraine must contend. But we also know that the people of Ukraine are determined to see their country join the growing circle of prosperous, free-market democracies. And that NATO's relationship with Ukraine has a major role to play in that process.
There is no getting around it. If a new Europe is to meet the challenges of a new century, Ukraine must succeed.
Toward that end, I view the work of this body as more essential than ever.
And I bid a respectful farewell to this Commission, confident that its future is in good hands.
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