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20 Years After Founding of Yalta European Strategy (YES), the EU Opens Accession Talks With Ukraine

On July 1, 2004, Yalta European Strategy held its first meeting in Livadia Palace in Yalta in Ukrainian Crimea. Almost to the day 20 years later, on June 25th, 2024, the European Union formally opened accession negotiations with Moldova and Ukraine.

"This achievement is a culmination of the YES initiative’s long-standing efforts to support Ukraine’s accession to the EU," wrote the board of YES in their statement

Aleksander Kwasniewski (Chairman of the Board), Kersti Kaljulaid, Carl Bildt, Sanna Marin, Stephane Fouks, Wolfgang Ischinger, Victor Pinchuk (YES Founder) and Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised the epochal success of Ukrainians and Ukraine's leadership.

They remarked that the accession talks came after 20 years of YES' work: "to make public opinions and European leaders aware of the urgent need for Ukraine to join the EU in the face of potential threats from its Russian neighbour."

YES started its work on July 1, 2004, when Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk invited some 30 European leaders to debate the future of Ukraine and the EU at Yalta. This private initiative evolved into an international organization that engaged Ukrainian, Western and global leaders in discussions, among others with an annual forum in Yalta in Ukrainian Crimea. In the so-called "Yalta Annual Meetings", Yalta, a symbol of Europe’s division in 1945, was turned into a place to discuss a wider Europe. In 2013, the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, forced the YES Annual Meeting to move to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

At the YES Annual Meetings, Ukrainian politicians, experts and civil society and business leaders met international figures like for example Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Chrystia Freeland, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Mateusz Morawiecki, Radoslav Sikorski, Shimon Peres, Fareed Zakaria, Timothy Snyder, Francis Fukuyama, Niall Ferguson, Richard Branson, Jimmy Wales, Eric Schmidt, Yuval Harari, Egils Levits,, Newt Gingrich, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Bono, and Elton John.

In their statement on the opening of accession talks, the YES board reminded of the price Ukrainians paid and pay for their astonishing achievement: "It took the Russian invasion, it took the toll of Ukrainian lives lost at the forefront of dreadful battles, it took the suffering of the wounded, it took the destructions of homes and the displacement of families."

YES will continue its work for Ukraine's European future and to ever more impactfully raise international support for Ukraine. The Board members believe in Ukraine's future in freedom, security, territorial integrity, with a flourishing democracy and strong economy that creates wealth and chances for all citizens, firmly integrated in Euro-Atlantic structures: "Every year since 2014, conference participants have demonstrated their support with the hopeful slogan, 'Next year in Yalta!'", the Board members wrote.  "Let's hope they will soon add, '…and also in Brussels.'"

YES Board Statement is available on the website

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