Ukraine

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:24 pm on 30th April 2008.

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Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound PPS (Rt Hon Stephen Timms, Minister of State), Department for Work and Pensions 3:24 pm, 30th April 2008

But many of us are acutely aware of the contribution that that skill has made. Also, I stress that constant references to Dynamo Kiev are in no way meant to denigrate Shakhtar Donetsk, a team for which those of us who support Celtic have great affection.

When one first visits Ukraine—and there has been much talk of a mature civic society and the civic responsibility of that community—one is immediately struck by the energy of a people who I suggest are almost unique in their determination and pride. My last football reference in this speech will be my appeal to anyone who seeks to understand a little of the Ukrainian psyche to read one of the most extraordinary books ever written: "Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev". That describes the famous death match when the last remnants of the Dynamo Kiev team were working in a bakery in Kiev and they ended up playing the German air force in a match refereed by a member of the Waffen SS. They were told that if they won the match it might cost them their lives. They went on and won it, and it did cost some of them their lives. We should all recognise that supreme pride and confidence in the nation, and the ability to bring something completely different that is so much a part of modern Ukraine.

When we talk about our country or Government supporting Ukraine's application to join the European Union, we do not do that out of any feeling of charity. It is not entirely from self-interest; we do it out of recognition of European economic realities. Modern Ukraine is a country of immense potential in agriculture, industry and nuclear technology and there are areas where we have much to learn from it, and much work of value to do with it. The fact that this country is a strong and consistent supporter of Ukrainian accession to the EU is something of which we should not only be extremely proud; we should make the point to our Ukrainian brothers and sisters that it is done from the principle of mutual benefit and gain.

I cannot say how impressed I was when I visited—admittedly only one or two—cities in Ukraine, to see a nation that, although it sounds presumptuous to say so, is emerging, and finding its feet. There is an entrepreneurial community there, and an emerging mercantile community. The politics is transparent and fair, and as we have heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South, it is operated completely honestly. We have in Ukraine a great partner for the future. It is important for Members of this House to put on record our respect for those who brought Ukraine to where it is today, our appreciation for the work that they have done, and our hope for the future that our bilateral relations, supported so ably by many people such as Mr. Spring, and many organisations, come to fruition, and that we can stand side by side, brother and brother, in an emerging, stronger, deeper and wider Europe. Ukraine has seen great days in a long and extraordinary history. I suggest that its greatest days are yet to come. Let this country stand with that proud nation when that great day comes.