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08/12/2016

At summit, Ukraine to press EU for peacekeepers

Europe's East

At summit, Ukraine to press EU for peacekeepers

The Presidential palace in Kyiv [Georgi Gotev]

Ukraine will press European leaders for peacekeepers to patrol its war-torn east and will angle for more international financial support at two days of high-level talks starting today (27 April).

Its pro-Western President, Petro Poroshenko, called on EU leaders to “provide powerful signals in support of Ukraine and its European integration in the course of the summit”.

Poroshenko is to meet with leaders, including the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, at a summit on Monday and with other international officials the day after at a conference showcasing cash-strapped Ukraine’s economic reforms.

Ukraine will nudge its allies to send peacekeepers to the east where its army is fighting pro-Russian separatists — a move the EU is reluctant to make.

>> Read: Ukrainian foreign minister: ‘Business as usual’ with Russia is a bad joke

“The parties have agreed to continue coordination in the international arena regarding the opportunity of deploying a mission under the auspices of the EU in order to facilitate a peaceful settlement,” Poroshenko’s office said in a statement.

The conflict between government troops and pro-Russian forces has killed more than 6,000 people in the past year and displaced more than a million, according to the United Nations.

Despite a ceasefire deal, European OSCE observers say there are still exchanges of artillery fire at the front.

EU monitoring reforms

The EU-Ukraine summit is the first since their “association agreement” came into force last year after the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych.

In return for support under the agreement, the EU is demanding reforms to clean up Ukrainian politics and business.

“The focus of the summit will be on the reform challenges,” said an EU official who asked not to be named.

Among measures taken in recent months, Kyiv has launched a new anti-corruption body and passed laws to clean up its banks.

“The test is in the real implementation, the changes in real life for people” that the reforms bring, the official said.

He said the EU delegation would demand Ukraine finalise constitutional reforms this year, including agreements on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian regions, Donetsk and Lugansk.

The EU will stand up for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and aims to see Kyiv regain full control of its eastern border in 2015, he added.

It also hopes to implement a free trade agreement with Ukraine by the end of this year, despite Russian reservations.

To achieve all this, Ukraine’s leaders say they need foreign peacekeepers and weapons. The West is reluctant to arm Kyiv for fear of escalating the conflict in the east.

Regarding peacekeepers, “the EU has received letters requesting a mission,” the official said.

“We are studying these proposals in detail,” he said, but added that the EU saw “no reason” to replace the OSCE monitors currently monitoring the ceasefire.

Financial aid

On Tuesday (28 April), Ukrainian leaders will showcase their economic reforms to foreign governments.

Brussels last week announced a fresh payment of €250 million in loans, bringing its total rescue package for Ukraine’s battered economy to €1.6 billion.

Poroshenko said on Friday that international donors had promised $2.0 billion in further investment to help rebuild the war-torn eastern Donbas region.

To fully implement the ceasefire and stabilise the separatist regions, “the main thing required is security”, he said in a television interview.

“We will immediately start attracting investments in Donbas after the completion of the first security phase related to the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and holding of fair elections.”

Background

The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine gave their support to a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, following 17-hour long negotiations in the Belarussian capital Minsk on 12 February.

The four leaders committed to respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a joint declaration.

Western leaders are closely observing the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

>> Read: Western leaders discuss Ukraine over video conference

On 2 March, European leaders said that they agreed that the OSCE needed a broader role as observers of the ceasefire, and weapons removal.

Ukraine has asked the EU to dispatch an EU-led Security and Defence (CSDP) mission to Donbas.

>> Read: Yelisieiev: The EU should send a CSDP mission to Ukraine