EU sets up ‘Support Group’ for Ukraine

Štefan Füle

Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced today (9 April) the setting up of a ‘Support Group’ which will help support Ukraine and coordinate work with member states, other donors and the International Financing Institutions.

Enlargement and neighbourhood policy commissioner Štefan Füle has been tasked to lead the Support Group, which will report to Barroso and to EU’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

The Support Group will be based in Brussels. It will be managed by Peter Balas, currently Deputy Director General in the Trade Directorate-General. It will consist of up to 30 full-time officials, as well of experts sent by the member states, contract agents and special advisers.

Barroso said that this decision showed the EU’s determination to help Ukraine for the long term. He reminded that the EU executive has already proposed a support package of at least €11 billion over the next couple of years.

Barroso reminded that over the last EU summit the political chapters of the Association Agreement have been signed, and that the Support Group would ensure that the Ukrainian authorities have all the support they need in undertaking the political and economic reforms that are necessary to stabilise the country.

“Our common goal is to have a democratic, independent and prosperous Ukraine,” Barroso said.

The setting up of the Support Group is unprecedented, as normally the EU institutions, and the Commission in particular, handle the association process or the assistance to countries in the Union’s neighbourhood. It is unclear how the Support Group will avoid duplication of work with the regular Commission services.

According to a press release, until the end of 2014, the Support Group will identify and coordinate with the Ukrainian authorities the technical assistance that they need to stabilise the economic situation, plan and implement reforms to boost growth and move forward with the so-called ‘visa liberalisation”.

Moldova, another country on its way to EU association, has implemented all requirements under the ‘visa liberalisation’ and its citizens will be able to travel visa-free to the Union’s borderless Schengen space from 28 April.

From 2015, the goal of the Support Group will be to further support Ukraine in the elaboration and implementation of comprehensive reform programmes.

The work of the Support Group will be based on the “European agenda for reform“, a document prepared with the Ukrainian authorities to match the EU’s short- and mid-term support actions with Ukraine needs.

The work of the Support Group could be extended also to Georgia and Moldova, the Commission said. 

G7 meets on Ukraine

In the meantime, it was announced that the finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations will meet on Thursday in Washington to discuss the global economy and the situation in Ukraine, sources said.

The meeting comes ahead of a gathering of top finance officials from the larger Group of 20 nations on Friday and weekend meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“I think the G7 will be mostly about the global economic outlook in general, and Ukraine/Russia in particular,” one source said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.

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