Ukraine’s foreign minister said his country wants assurances at a summit with the European Union this week that it is a suitable candidate for EU membership, and that its citizens will gain visa-free travel to the bloc next year.
Officials from the EU and its member states meet six of the bloc’s eastern neighbours, including Ukraine, in the Latvian capital Riga today and tomorrow (21-22 May), for what the country holding the rotating EU presidency has called “a survival summit” of the Eastern partnership.
The EU has already agreed to a free-trade pact with Ukraine, to be implemented from next year.
“Now we want concrete assurances in Riga that Ukraine is eligible for future membership of the European Union, and has the chance to become an accession candidate in the future,” Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told Germany’s Die Welt.
“We want to see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, adding that Ukraine also expected a commitment at the summit to visa-free travel to the EU from next year for its citizens.
The Eastern Partnership, initiated by Poland and Sweden, was launched in 2009 with the aim of improving EU ties with Ukraine as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova.
The Eastern Partnership doesn’t offer the prospect of EU membership for the former Soviet republics, although it largely replicates the engagement used in the EU enlargement process.
Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia signed political and trade agreements with the EU last year and want to join the bloc.
The EU plans to strengthen relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, setting them apart from the other Eastern Partnership countries, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus.
A tug-of-war for influence between Brussels and the Kremlin, culminating in the Ukrainian conflict and Western sanctions against Moscow, has raised concern among some in the West about a new Cold War.
Russia describes last year’s toppling of a pro-Russian president in Ukraine by mass protests and the country’s turn away from Moscow towards the EU as a Western-backed coup. The loss of Ukraine was a blow to President Vladimir Putin’s plans for a Eurasian Customs Union to parallel the EU.
Klimkin vowed Ukraine would implement “point for point” the Minsk agreement to ease conflict in the country.
Russia criticises Ukraine for not having delivered on its obligations under the Minsk agrreement
According to he political declaration accompanying the Minsk agreement, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine support trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia in order to achieve practical solutions to concerns raised by Moscow, concerning the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.