EU blamed for mishandling Ukraine trade pact agreement


EXCLUSIVE / The EU finds itself in the embarrassing situation of having mishandled a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine’s landmark Association Agreement, and the new Kyiv government is furious, EurActiv has found. 

At their summit held yesterday (6 March), EU leaders decided to sign “the political chapters” of the Association Agreement (AA) with Ukraine “soon”, before the Ukrainian Presidential elections scheduled on 25 May.

But the fate of the signature of the AA itself hangs in doubt, because EU leaders had promised Russian President Putin to overcome “different interpretations and misunderstandings” on this pact, EurActiv has learned.

The European Commission refused today (7 March) to explain why EU leaders had decided to disassociate the “political chapters” of the EU-Ukraine AA.

Commission spokesperson Alejandro Ulzurrun repeated the statement pronounced by European Council President Herman Van Romuy at the end of the EU summit, namely that the heads of state and government of the 28-member Union would sign “as a matter of priority” and “very shortly” the political chapters, specifying that this would happen before the 25 May vote.

But he didn’t give any indication as to when the signature of the AA itself could take place.

Such uncertainty is not without risks. As Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizov recently told EurActiv, Moscow believes that a pro-Russian majority in the country has a chance of winning the 25 May elections. An eventual pro-Russia majority in Ukraine could scrap the AA altogether, or more realistically, call a referendum on its signature, the result of which a pro-Russia government could easily manipulate.

Since Moldova and Georgia, which finalised their AAs much later than Ukraine, are due to sign before the end of August, Ulzurrun was asked if this timeframe applied also to Ukraine’s AA. He declined to respond.

One explanation as to why EU leaders opted to diassociate the political chapters from the AA was provided by Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, who spoke to journalists after the summit.

Asked by the correspondent of the Bulgarian National Radio why the economic chapters of the AA requited more time, Oresharski answered: “They require more time, because there is an agreement between the European Commission and Russia that all economic aspects of EU association are discussed before,” he said.

Oresharski obviously referred to the last EU-Russia summit held on 28 January, where the two sides agreed to pursue bilateral consultations at expert level on the Eastern Partnership Association Agreements, and on economic consequences on both sides.

At that time, Ukraine’s AA was still hanging in doubt, as the then-President Viktor Yanukovich had put it on hold, while the Union had already promised to Moldova and Georgia a signature of the agreements by summer.

Ulzurrun said no expert group dealing with “the misunderstandings” and “consequences” of the AAs had been established as a follow-up to the EU-Russia summit.

The official EU position has always been that EU-Ukraine association is a bilateral issue. But Putin, apparently, has played his summit cards better, if he has effectively been able to keep the EU-Ukraine AA hostage to a working group that could never meet. According to information obtained by EurActiv, the new Ukrainian government is enraged by the situation.

Speaking to the press at the EU summit yesterday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk was asked on three occasions when the signing of the AA will take place. He provided no answer and looked furious.

Ukraine’s top diplomat in Brussels recently said that his country wanted to sign the AA and the accompanying Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) on the occasion of the 20-21 Spring EU summit. But the Commission mysteriously said “pedagogical work” was needed first, to counter the campaigns that had been conducted in the country to denigrate the pact in the recent past.

  • 20-21 March: EU summit which may provide opportunity for signing the “political chapters” of AA;
  • 25 May: Presidential elections to be held in Ukraine.


Vincente's picture

Ha ha! Mr Yatsenyuk, welcome to democracy! If you don't can't stand it, go back to your West Ukrainian stronghold and become a good anti-Russian local politician.

BULGARIAN's picture

Ha! So if they join the EU, it will be without referendum. Just like us.

Dave Thomas's picture

There is no reason why the EU should stand by this agreement with Russia. As Russia is an aggressor state which has broken every international law around, there is no reason why the EU should abide by this agreement. Especially since this was agreed to under totally different circumstances and a totally different government in Ukraine.

joe bialek's picture

This letter is in response to the articles covering the civil unrest
occurring in Ukraine.

As a citizen of and believer in democracy, I applaud the efforts of the Ukrainian people. Their efforts are similar to what is happening in many other parts of the world.

Believe it or not, one thing that trumps capitalism and political
correctness in the United States is the right to have one's voice heard. This is the foundation of which our democracy is built on. The Ukrainian people should continue to defy Viktor Yanukovych's powerful security forces so that Ukrainian democracy can begin to thrive. It is unfortunate that the United States compromised on one of its most fundamental values in order to protect its economic interests in Eastern Europe; something that happens all too often domestically as well. It is not the Ukrainian people that are attempting to seize power but rather it is those currently in power who have engaged in intimidation to prevent the will of the people from being heard. Why else would they stoop to such underhanded tactics to block various means of communication among the citizens of Ukraine? Why is the government in power utilizing such political strong-arm tactics as the use of violence?

Viktor Yanukovych, you have had four years to lead Ukraine and have failed them by your own choosing. The days of the despotic regime are finally coming to an end as it appears the desire for freedom will continue to sweep among the East European nations. Accordingly, let the call go forth among all citizens of Ukraine that your brothers and sisters of democracy from all over the world are with you during every trial and tribulation you may encounter during this crisis. To the people of Ukraine, the trumpet of freedom beckons you to rise in protest and ensure your voice to preserve your sacred heritage, promote your children's future and obtain the blessings of liberty we all cherish.

Ukraine, the hour of your redemption is at hand. As you the rightful citizens move forward to reclaim your own country, rise and strike! In the name of those who were murdered fighting for everyone's rights, rise and strike! To end the rule of this evil regime, rise and strike! Let no one continue to fear this man. Let every Ukrainian be strong and fight on for their freedom. Rise and strike!

Viktor Yanukovych, let the people go!

Cleveland, OH USA

sk's picture

Did the people of Serbia get to vote when Kosovo was taken from them.