The head of Ukraine´s newest political party admits that “serious reform” of the country´s agricultural sector is needed before its association agreement with the EU can come into effect. But, speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Vira Ulyanchenko said she was “confident” reform measures would be implemented in time for the wideranging trade deal to come into force by in just over 12 months.
Ulyanchenko was in Brussels for a conference, “EU-Ukraine Agricultural Dialogue,” and to promote the newly-formed Zastup party which she heads.
The conference was attended by EU experts, civil society leaders and representatives of EU agri-business circles.
Zastup, formally launched in September to represent the interest of Ukraine´s important agricultural sector, is one of 29 political parties which will contest parliamentary elections on 26 October.
The party, born out of the Ukrainian Agricultural Association, hopes to win 5 to 7 per cent of the vote in the keenly-awaited elections.
She said that despite its current problems, agriculture remains the “engine” of Ukraine´s economy, providing employment for some 14 m people, or one in four of the country´s population.
She told this website that implementation of the association agreement was “vital” in order to help ensure that Ukrainian food produce, such as sunflower, egg products and grain, remain competitive on the EU market.
“That is one of the reasons why we created this new party – to lobby for the interests of our agricultural producers both at EU and national level,” she said. “We want to give the sector a political voice which it has not had before.”
Ulyanchenko, who outlined her party´s objectives and ambitions at the one-day conference, said, “The rural villages of Ukraine need to improve their access to market and develop improved logistics to enter the food distribution supply chain so that they can secure better prices for their goods, create wealth in the village communities to halt urban migration and generate better jobs and careers for villagers to sustain their rural communities.
“To meet this end, the agricultural sector of Ukraine needs support and assistance to achieve EU standards, and improve cooperation with their counterparts in the member states of the EU.”
Ulyanchenko said that while 50 per cent of measures required under the association agreement with the EU had already been implemented, further reform was still needed.
She cautioned that “hard work” was required to implement further reforms, including support for middle-class farmers and laws on agricultural land use.
But she stressed the continuing importance of the sector, both domestically and the rest of Europe, saying that Ukraine food products, such as sunflower oil, account for some 27 per cent of EU food products.
Ukraine is also the world´s third biggest exporter of grain.
“In days gone by, Ukraine was known as the ´kitchen´ of the Soviet Union and this is something we want to revive.
“Given the food shortages around the world it makes more sense to prioritize this sector rather than, say, coal or steel.”
Other speakers at the event include Polish EPP MEP Andrzey Grzyb and Phillip Cuisson,of the European Commission´s Ukraine Support Group
By Martin Banks