I recently wrote about the centre of Kyiv turning British.  So it's good to find the centre of Oxford turning Ukrainian.  The occasion is the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Programme Oxford Model Ukraine Conference "Ukraine's Domestic and Foreign Affairs: Quo Vadis" ("where are you going"), held in St Anthony's College and New College, Oxford from 6-8 April.

At the opening of the conference I deliver a speech which we'll put up on the embassy website soon.  My basic thesis is that a lot's going on in Ukraine, including both some good developments and some developments which give cause for concern.  But (I say) there's a good chance that Ukraine can continue to deepen and develop its democracy and move closer to Europe.  For me, the litmus-test of which way Ukraine is going will be whether the country signs up for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU - about the potential benefits of which I blogged recently.

There is much debate at the Conference about whether Ukraine and the EU will manage to resolve the various outstanding issues in the negotiations (I have in fact since heard that the latest round, held last week in Brussels, went well).  The key to resolving those issues is two-fold:

Question 1: does Ukraine really want the DCFTA?  My answer to this is that, based on recent progress and the statements by President Yanukovych, Ukraine fully understands the benefits of the DCFTA and is keen to secure agreement;

Question 2: does the Ukrainian leadership have the political will, and the support of the Ukrainian people, to sign up for the DCFTA, bearing in mind that it will involve some tough decisions in the short term but will have immense long-term benefits?  My answer: see Question 1.

It's great to see in Oxford such a panoply of experts on Ukraine, plus a host of Ukrainian and British students, participating in an intensive and high-quality conference.  At lunch, and in the evening, discussion is in a mixture of English, Ukrainian and Russian and innumerable ideas for improving Ukraine are kicked around in the heart of Oxford late into the night.  The follow-up conference is due in Kyiv in December - I hope to be there. 

Leigh Turner 
British Ambassador to Ukraine

NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting: 




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