Thank you, dear members of Parliament and chairs of committees.
First of all, I want to thank you on behalf of our delegation, and on behalf of our country of 45 million, for the initiative to hold this joint meeting.
I want to stress that, for us, Canada is an extremely special partner. It's a country with which we have very close ties, ties lasting over 100 years. It's 125 years since the first Ukrainians landed in Canada. We are proud that Ukrainians who live in Canada, who are Canadian citizens, and who are born in Canada have made contributions to the strengthening of your state.
Today, we face a lot of global challenges. I am deeply convinced that together we can be efficient in protecting our democracy globally. The fact that today there is a joint meeting of three committees—foreign affairs, defence, and international trade—is something that...dedicated to a special issue.
We attach paramount importance to the co-operation between our countries. Today, we face absolutely new opportunities. This is my first visit ever to Canada as the Prime Minister of Ukraine, as well as personally. I am discovering this wonderful country for myself.
I see that we have wonderful opportunities to deepen our co-operation in many areas, from culture to the international arena. As a country of 45 million, as a large nation, we have experienced very difficult times in establishing ourselves. In the difficult times over the last three years, we have felt your support, the support of Canada. We know that in regard to the issue of Ukraine, there is unity in the Parliament of Canada. We highly appreciate this as a sign of support for democracy and democratic values.
For the last three years, we have been defending our independence. We have been restoring our territorial integrity. In these difficult times, we have also conducted reforms in our country, which are related to all areas of our lives. I want to stress that in 2014, we faced an unprecedented aggression by the Russian Federation. Let me provide you with some facts and figures.
There was the annexation of Crimea, and the temporary occupation of a part of eastern Ukraine. Overnight, we lost our traditional markets, because Ukraine's economy was very dependent on Russia. It was Russia's policy to make Ukraine dependent. We faced interruption of energy supply, interruption of gas supply to Ukraine. We were 93% dependent on Russian gas. We also faced information attacks by Russia, as well as cyber-attacks, which remain a challenge for us today.
As a result of the actions of the previous regime, the national economy was very weak. The aggression led to the loss of 17% of our GDP. All of that was an extremely important challenge for us. We started restoring our country, including through co-operating with our international partners. Once again, I want to express our appreciation of the fact that in these difficult times you were—and you are—standing by our side.
Just as in 1991, when Canada was the first western country to recognize our independence, we feel the same sort of support today. We can also mention the numerous technical missions operated in Ukraine and our defence co-operation. I also consider a tremendous breakthrough the agreement on free trade between our countries.
We would like to see the beginning of dialogue on the simplification of a visa regime between our countries, and we have had positive experience. We have a visa-free regime with the European Union and with Israel. We have quite a liberal visa regime with the United States, and I am convinced that the time has come for us to start the dialogue to bring our nations even closer to each other.
During that period of time, we managed to stop the economic downfall. We started economic recovery, and now the economic growth is a bit more than 2% of GDP. We also started the total reformation of the country in many areas that remained unreformed for over 23 years. We started the decentralization of the country. We launched a large-scale reform of the public service and a reform of the energy sector. We started developing new legislation to fight corruption efficiently. We now need to establish a new Ukrainian anti-corruption court that will be trusted by the public.
In just the past few weeks, we passed a very important decision by Parliament to create a new modern system of education as well as to reform the health care system. This October, we also approved a new large-scale reform of the pension system of Ukraine. We are preparing for large-scale privatization, and we have also planned many other reforms that will change the life of our country. We are not going to stop. On September 1, 2017, the Association Agreement with the European Union came fully into force. This means that we have to align our legislation with the European legislation and we have to make Ukraine a democratic country with a powerful economy.
Once again, I want to stress that we appreciate your continuing support, and today we can speak about our vision of the future, because I'm the kind of man who believes that everything that is done today is already history; it is important to discuss what we are going to do tomorrow.