EU expects ‘determined action’ from Ukraine

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EU ministers adopted yesterday (10 December) a rather long text on the Union’s relations with Ukraine, leaving options open for the holding of a bilateral summit and for signing the association agreement in 2013, provided that they see “determined action” in a number of areas, including “progress in addressing the issue of selective justice”.

EU ministers state that the future of Ukraine’s EU relations will depend on progress in three main areas: the compliance of the 2012 parliamentary elections’ with international standards and follow-up actions, Ukraine’s progress in addressing the issue of selective justice and preventing its recurrence, and the implementation of the reforms defined in the jointly agreed Association Agenda.

With regard to the parliamentary election held on 28 October, ministers note with “concern” that the poll had presented a mixed picture with several shortcomings and constituted a deterioration in several areas compared to standards previously achieved.

This vision apparently contrasts with the reading of the Ukrainian authorities.

Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, the Ukrainian ambassador in Brussels, said last month that his country had “passed the test” with the parliamentary elections, held on 28 October.

He admitted that not everything had been perfect with the election, but insisted that they should be considered by the EU as fair, as results largely coincided with opinion polls. A proof of the free choice of people was that two new political forces were able to enter parliament, he said.

However, the EU has not yet given its final assessment on the elections and ministers stress they are expecting the final report of the specialised body of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and that they would look into the way how Ukraine addresses the observed shortcomings.

‘Selective justice’

Regarding “selective justice”, a diplomatic term referring to the treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, both of whom are serving prison terms, the ministers state that they expect the authorities to address the cases of politically motivated convictions “without delay” as well as to take “further steps to reform the judiciary to prevent any recurrence”.

Regarding the various reforms under the jointly agreed Association Agenda, the ministers stress the need not only to adopt reforms and new legislation, but stress the importance of their effective implementation. EU ministers also deplore the “deteriorating business climate” in Ukraine and stress the importance of “inclusive reforms through constructive engagement between government, parliamentary opposition and civil society”.

On the basis of “tangible progress” in the three areas mentioned, ministers reaffirm their commitment to sign the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).

The text of the 906-pages Association Agreement was recently leaked to the media and published in BlogActiv.

Ministers also appear to indicate that options are open for holding a EU-Ukraine summit, before the November 2013 Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership, under the Lithuanian presidency of the EU.

The last EU-Ukraine summit was held in December 2011. No bilateral summit took place in 2012, marking a low point in relations.

Ministers called on Ukraine to refrain from introducing measures contrary to the DCFTA, such as protectionist recycling fees on vehicles, which they said are potentially in breach of the country’s WTO commitments.

Ministers also confirmed its commitment to the “shared objective” of visa-free travel in due course “provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility set out in the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation are in place”.  

Mission of Ukraine to the EU said in a statement:

"Ukraine has taken note of the conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Ukraine adopted on 10 December 2012 which are important for further development of relations between Ukraine and the European Union based on political association and economic integration.

The recognition by the European Union of the European aspirations and European choice of our country is important. European integration remains a strategic priority of the foreign policy and a guideline for comprehensive political, economic and social reforms in Ukraine.

Ukraine welcomes the EU’s commitment to sign the Association Agreement which is in the interest of both parties."

The December 2011 EU-Ukraine Summit failed to initial the country's Association Agreement with the Union, largely due to the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that Brussels sees as politically motivated.

The five-year negotiations over the Association Agreement were concluded, but EU leaders made it clear that the deal would not be signed until improvements are made to the "quality of democracy and rule of law" in Ukraine.

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