German chancellor Helmut Kohl, accompanied by a large government and business delegation, completed today a three-day official visit to Ukraine. "An independent and stable Ukraine is vitally important to Germany and Europe. Europe needs Ukraine just like Ukraine needs Europe," Kohl told a news conference following his talks with President Leonid Kuchma. The chancellor also told Kiev University faculty and students that "Ukraine’s firm place in Europe can no longer be challenged by anyone, and we will help Ukraine consolidate that place. No one will be able any more to dispute Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity."
Kohl reaffirmed Germany’s decision to lobby within the European Union in favor of a EU-Ukraine free trade agreement. The chancellor also advised the Ukrainians to do better than Russia in providing legal security for Western investments. "Germany’s experience in this regard in Russia gives cause for concern," Kohl was quoted as saying. Ukrainian prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko, citing the recent restructuring of Russia’s debts to Western creditors, asked Kohl to support a similar rescheduling of Ukraine’s nearly $1 billion debts to Russia when Kohl meets Russian leaders.
Officials of the two governments signed agreements on German assistance to the formation of small- and medium-sized private businesses in Ukraine, the provision of German advisers to nascent Ukrainian private enterprises, German training of Ukrainian banking personnel, assistance by Germany’s public ZDFTV network to Ukrainian TV, the return of cultural assets seized during and after World War II, and measures to benefit Ukraine’s ethnic German minority, including survivors of the Soviet-era deportation and their descendants who choose to return to Ukraine.
German business executives from Daimler-Benz, Telekom, Siemens, Asea-Brown Boveri, Hege, and other major companies signed protocols with Ukrainian officials on modernizing Odessa airport, Kiev’s telephone network, and several Ukrainian industrial plants through direct investments and creation of joint ventures. German officials said they were encouraging private business to invest in Ukraine in view of its "exceptionally good development prospects, notwithstanding the current, inevitable difficulties."
There was no immediate word about the discussions on security issues. Publicly, Kuchma and other officials restated Ukraine’s known view in favor of an evolutionary enlargement of NATO, non-nuclear status for its new members, and the right of any state to choose its alliances. Kohl for his part stated that "no country has a right to instruct others whether to join an alliance or not, nor to use other countries as military outposts." The remark was evidently meant to be heard in Moscow where Kohl is about to fly for an unofficial, one-day visit. (UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, September 3 and 4)
Kohl’s visit was his second to independent Ukraine. (His first was in 1993.) The agenda and the tone of the just-completed visit reflect the growing awareness in Bonn, as in some other Western capitals, of Ukraine’s political and economic importance, magnified by the uncertainties surrounding Russia’s direction. The rapprochement with Ukraine does not mean that Bonn is giving up its stake in Boris Yeltsin or the warm personal rapport which Kohl has been able to establish with the Russian president; but it testifies to a reappraisal of that stake’s value and durability.
Ukrainian-German trade is still modest at $287 million for the first trimester of 1996, and German investment in Ukraine since 1992 amounts to only $152 million (Financial World News, September 3) These levels leave room for rapid expansion if the Ukrainian leadership’s economic reform programs proceed undisrupted.
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