EU cannot let the world forget about Ukraine - European Commissioner

Author : Chrīstos Stylianidīs

Source : 112 Ukraine

Chrīstos Stylianidīs on situation in Donbas, humanitarian issue, and trade blockade with the uncontrolled areas
14:00, 21 February 2017

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This is my fourth trip to Ukraine while serving as European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Related: Reintegrating Donbas: Ukraine wants to cut water supply and social benefits

My visit would take place just a few days after the recent escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. It took the lives of innocent people, caused many serious injuries, destroyed homes, and caused tensions within the local population.

Even though the media does not too widely covers this situation, it is a stark reminder that the east of Ukraine is suffering from the deadly and destructive conflict.

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My visit here today is evidence of EU’s support to war-torn Ukraine on both sides of the boundary line.

The EU cannot let the world forget about Ukraine.

From the very beginning of the conflict the EU "was on the front line" of responding to the conflict-related humanitarian crisis. This happened in particular by supporting the most vulnerable groups on the territories, uncontrolled by he Ukrainian authorities on both sides of the boundary line.

Related: European Parliament to consider tensions in Avdiivka next week

However, humanitarian needs still remain extremely high, according to some estimates, 3.8 million people are in need. Consequently, we must do more.

Today I am going to announce about 18 million euros emergency assistance to the Ukrainians.

This is a bonus to the humanitarian assistance and the prompt recovery in the amount of 381 million euros, given by the EU and its Member States to Ukraine since the very beginning of the crisis.

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With the help of the European Union, hundreds of thousands of people are supplied with such basic necessities as food, fuel, clothing, medicines. We have also launched some educational projects for children.

It is important that aid depends on guaranteed access of the humanitarian organizations to people in conflict areas.

In this regard, the EU continues to urge all parties to ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations - especially in areas, not controlled by Ukrainian authorities - so that they could freely exercise their activities. The parties should also promote the free movement of civilians and goods between the uncontrolled territories and the rest of Ukraine. The work of Minsk humanitarian working groups should be activated. People suffer when they do not have access to humanitarian assistance.

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However, the assistance is not enough. There should be some progress in solving the political conflict. The European Union will do everything in its power in order to support the diplomatic efforts for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

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In turn, quite important is what Ukrainian authorities managed to achieve over the last few months. I mean progress in the reforms and the incredible achievements demonstrate a clear commitment to meet the needs of the population. In particular, the EU welcomes the leadership of the Ministry of temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons. It has contributed to the adoption of the Action Plan on certain territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where public administrations temporarily exercise their authority. Once this plan is implemented, it will help improve social cohesion, bring peace, and promote reconciliation.

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Despite some flaws, this plan is an important step towards the urgent comprehensive approach towards the citizens of Ukraine, who live in areas, which are not currently controlled by the authorities. The plan deserves our support, and all the parties involved in this process should help in its implementation. Especially when it comes to facilitating free movement between the line of demarcation, people-to-people contacts, and access to social services, including education.

Instead, the blockade of railway roads between territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities and the so-called LPR/DPR contradicts this comprehensive approach.

Related: Poroshenko: Ukraine to continue European integration no matter what

The blockade reduces the supply of coal from the occupied territories. As a result, soon threatened may be the main work stations. This might cause a strong energy crisis in the country, which touches Ukrainian citizens on both sides of the boundary line.

Ukraine and the Ukrainians are not alone. They should rely on the support of the European Union, backstopping Ukraine, which is satisfying the expectations of its people. The European Union and Ukraine are stronger together.

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