Ladies and Gentlemen!
Шановні представники української громади Норвегії!
I am greatly honoured to welcome you all as our guests at today’s Ukrainian evening at the Grand Hotel.
2018 is a very special year for Ukraine, as this year we are celebrating not only the 27th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence, but also the centennial anniversary of Ukraine’s regained statehood in 1918.
Of course, the Ukrainian statehood goes much further back than 27 or even 100 years. I would only mention our glorious Kyiv Rus – one of the most advanced state formations in the medieval Europe. For our today’s evening we have even prepared a nice surprise that will underline deep historical links between Kyiv Rus and the ancient Norwegian Kingdom.
But while remembering our past, of course, we are thinking about our present and preparing our future.
To explain better why the present moment is so uniquely important for the Ukrainian nation, I will make a reference to one of my favourite pieces of world literature – the novel “Growth of the Soil” written by Knut Hamsun. Its Norwegian title is “Markens Grøde” and I am sure most of our guests know this novel well.
In a nutshell, this a story about a Norwegian man who starts his farm in a forest from virtually nothing, he works hard in harsh conditions, he has good friends, but he confronts many challenges mostly on his own, he creates family, his family grows, his household expands and ultimately becomes one of the finest in the land.
This is a very simple and beautiful story of almost biblical power and I strongly recommend this masterpiece to everyone. But the reason why I mention this novel today is that in its very core it conveys what Ukraine is currently going through.
Now this a rebirth of the Ukrainian nation, this is a real “growth of the soil” for Ukraine. And today we are somewhere in the middle of this story.
Less than 5 years ago only, when Crimea was annexed and the foreign aggression was launched in Donbas, Ukraine had to start almost from the scratch its path towards the real freedom.
In 2014 Ukraine had no effective armed forces, its public coffers were empty, its economy shrank by almost 20 percent, and, yet, it had to resist one of the world’s biggest armies. Let’s be honest – even some of our friends doubted that Ukraine will be able even to survive in view of the enormity of threats and challenges that we had to confront.
Yet, Ukraine was able to get its act together. Ukrainians stopped the external aggressor whose plans – now this is an open secret – were much more grandiose than just Crimea and part of Donbas. Unfortunately, this was not achieved by a miracle – more than 10 thousand Ukrainians made the ultimate sacrifice for this. But now Ukrainians know how to defend themselves and Ukraine has strong and experienced armed forces.
On the other hand, our Government has launched and continues to implement the most comprehensive reforms that have already started to bring fruits. Now for the third consecutive year the Ukrainian economy is on the rise, and in 2018, according to the latest data, we expect almost 4 percent GDP growth. Ukraine’s impressive progress has been recognized by many authoritative international rankings. I will quote just one, but quite convincing example – over the past five years Ukraine has climbed 61 places in the World Bank’s Doing Business Ranking.
Also there are very few things that can prove better the prospects of an economy than a vote of investors. And investors have started to vote for Ukraine. I will also give only one example – if just the last year the overall volume of the Norwegian investments in Ukraine was some 7 million US dollars, already in the next year we expect that the total of Norwegian investments will amount to almost 1 billion US dollars or more than 8 billion Norwegian kroner.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank the leadership of Norwegian companies Scatec Solar and NBT for starting their important investment projects in Ukraine, but also other Norwegian investors who are now seriously considering giving their vote of confidence to Ukraine.
To sum up, Ukraine may have lost temporarily parts of its land and many our citizens have to go now through serious hardships, but today the Ukrainian nation is regaining everything else – its freedom and dignity, its history, its language, its long-awaited independent church, its legitimate place in the European family, and respect of its friends and partners in the world.
As I said, there is a realization in Ukraine that we are still in the middle of our path, and the road ahead of us is going to be as challenging. But we know what is at stake, we know what we have to do and we are determined to persist in our efforts.
It is very important that the international community also remembers what is at stake in our situation and almost unanimously stands behind the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and contributes to Ukraine’s success.
And for those very few who are still “hesitating” it is only sufficient to look at the map and the calendar – what you will see is that in the 21st century the largest state in the world attacked and seized the land from the largest state in Europe. Ukraine simply proved to be stronger than the aggressor had expected and resilient enough to resist effectively and not be silenced.
But does anyone wish to live in a world in which only might is right and even the most fundamental rules and principles are contravened and discarded at his whim?
Once I have heard somebody complaining that allegedly Ukraine is too much focused on one of its neighbours. It is difficult to agree entirely with this approach – “a spade should be always called a spade”.
But this is not about Ukraine being focused on its neighbour. This is about all of us. This is about the rules-based international order. This is about the future of our world. This is why what has happened in Ukraine and what is being decided in Ukraine now is of such tremendous international importance.
We know that Norway and the Norwegian people understand this very well.
I would like to express my Government’s gratitude for a very clear call by Prime Minister Erna Solberg yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly towards unconditional restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
My Government also most highly appreciated the latest expression of solidarity with Ukraine by Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide when within her first visit to Ukraine this September she bravely visited the war-torn regions, including the separation line in Donbas.
I would also like to thank our Norwegian friends for their genuine interest and commitment towards strengthening the Ukrainian-Norwegian partnership. Today our bilateral relations are strong as never before. I can’t think about anything more rewarding than to witness this real “growth of the soil” in relations between our two nations. Ukraine and Norway have achieved a lot in the last few years, and yet the potential for further deepening of our mutually beneficial partnership is far from being exhausted. And there should be no doubt that we will continue to move forward! Vi skal videre!
Ladies and Gentlemen! I would like to finish my remarks with a proposal to raise your glasses to the Ukrainian and Norwegian peoples and to even greater future of the partnership between Ukraine and the Kingdom of Norway!