Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement
The Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement is a proposed European Union Association Agreement with Ukraine initialed on 30 March 2012 in Brussels. On 21 November 2013, a Ukrainian government decree suspended preparations for signing of association agreement.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton warned Ukraine that although the talks on the Association Agreement with Ukraine would continue, the ratification process of this treaty "will face problems if there is no reversal in the approach of Ukrainian authorities" towards the trial of former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko. This association agreement has to be ratified by all member states and the European Parliament for the document to take effect. The sentencing of Tymoshenko to seven years in prison on 11 October 2011 was met with national and international protest and threatens Ukraine–European Union relations. Tymoshenko herself has stated that her imprisonment should not stop the European Union to further integrate with Ukraine. Certain analysts and Ukrainian politicians have pointed out that they believe that some Ukrainian businesses tycoons with "lucrative relations" with Russia are deliberately hindering Ukraine's EU integration. The signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, although finalised, was postponed on 19 December 2011; according to a joint statement by Ukraine and the EU adopted on a Ukraine-EU Summit the ratification of the treaty depended on Ukraine's "respect for common values and the rule of law with an independent judiciary". European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle stated 27 February 2012 he "hoped" the EU-Ukraine association agreement would be initialed within a month and he "saw" it would be signed next autumn, he also noted "the need for action in six key areas" (mainly juridical reform and democratic freedoms). On 29 February 2012 the European People's Party demanded the "immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko and other political prisoners; it also insisted the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union should not be signed and ratified until these demands were met.
The EU Association Agreement (AA) was initialed on 30 March 2012 in Brussels; but as of November 2012 the 27 EU governments and the European Parliament have yet to sign the accord. The treatment and sentencing (considered by EU leaders as a politically motivated trial) of former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko have strained the relations between the EU and Ukraine. The European Union and several of its member states, notably Germany, have been pressuring Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and his Azarov Government to halt the detention of Tymoshenko in fear of her degrading health. Several meetings with Yanukovich have been deserted by EU leaders, including the German president Joachim Gauck.
At the request of opposition politicians in Ukraine, EU government officials boycotted the UEFA Euro 2012 championship in Ukraine. EU leaders have suggested that the AA, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, will not be ratified unless Ukraine addresses concerns over a "stark deterioration of democracy and the rule of law", including the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko in 2011 and 2012.
A 10 December 2012 statement by the EU Foreign Affairs Council "reaffirms its commitment to the signing of the already initialed Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, as soon as the Ukrainian authorities demonstrate determined action and tangible progress in the three areas mentioned above, possibly by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013". These three areas are: "Electoral, judiciary and constitutional reforms (in line with international standards are integral parts of it and commonly agreed priorities)".
Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, Ukraine's Ambassador to the EU, responded in February 2013 by rejecting any preconditions by the EU for signing the AA. However, on 22 February 2013 a resolution was approved by 315 of the 349 registered members of the Verkhovna Rada stating that "within its powers" the parliament would ensure that 10 December 2012 EU Foreign Affairs Council "recommendations" are implemented. At the 16th EU-Ukraine summit of 25 February 2013, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy followed up on the December 2012 EU Foreign Affairs Council statement by reiterating the EU's "call for determined action and tangible progress in these areas – at the latest by May, this year".
The same day President Yanukovych stated Ukraine will "do its best" to satisfy the EU's requirements. At the time President Yanukovych was also in negotiations with Russia to "find the right model" for cooperation with the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. But also on 25 February 2013 President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso made it clear that "one country cannot at the same time be a member of a customs union and be in a deep common free-trade area with the European Union".
To coordinate preparation of Ukraine for European integration, the Government of Ukraine has adopted a Plan on Priority Measures for European Integration of Ukraine for 2013. Successful implementation of the plan is assumed as one of the conditions necessary for signing of the Association Agreement, planned for 29 November 2013 during Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
In March 2013, Stefan Fuele, the EU's Commissioner for Enlargement, informed the European Parliament that while Ukrainian authorities had given their "unequivocal commitment" to address the issues raised by the EU, several "disturbing" recent incidents, including the annulment of Tymoshenko's lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko's mandate in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament), could delay the signing of the agreements. However, the next day the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its optimism that they would still be signed in November.
On 7 April 2013 a decree by President Yanukovych freed Lutsenko from prison and exempted him, and his fellow Minister in the second Tymoshenko Government Heorhiy Filipchuk, from further punishment.
On 3 September 2013 (at the opening session of the Verkhovna Rada after the summer recess) President Yanukovych urged his parliament to adopt laws so that Ukraine will meet the EU criteria and it can sign the Association Agreement in November 2013.
On 18 September the Ukrainian cabinet unanimously approved the draft association agreement.
On 25 September 2013 Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Rybak stated that he was sure that his parliament would pass all the laws needed to fit the EU criteria for the Association Agreement since, except for the Communist Party of Ukraine[nb 1], "The Verkhovna Rada has united around these bills".
On 20 November 2013 EU's Commissioner for Enlargement Fuele stated he expected that the Verkhovna Rada would consider and adopt the remaining bills necessary for the signing of the association agreement, planned for 29 November 2013, the next day.
On 29 July 2013 Russia banned the import of chocolate products made by the Ukrainian company Roshen and asked Belarus and Kazakhstan to follow suit. A Russian sanitary official stated that the company had not met quality and safety standards, but critics alleged that the ban was meant as a warning against Ukraine associating more closely with the EU. The owner of Roshen, Petro Poroshenko, is reported to be pro-European. On 14 August 2013, Federal Customs Service of Russia officials began conducting more stringent inspections of cargo arriving from Ukraine than would normally be carried out. This lasted until 20 August 2013 and was followed by statements from the Russian President's top economic advisor Sergey Glazyev arguing that the impact of Russia's response to Ukraine signing the AA, including tariffs and trade checks, could lead to default, a decline in the standard of living and "political and social unrest" in Ukraine, and would violate the Russian-Ukrainian strategic partnership and friendship treaty. The latter, he warned, would mean that Ukraine's statehood could not be guaranteed by Russia, which might intervene in the country at the request of pro-Russian regions. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that members of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia may impose what he called protective measures in the event of trade liberalization between Ukraine and the EU.[nb 2] The EU condemned Russia's threats connected with the AA, calling them unacceptable. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov urged Russia "to accept the reality of Ukraine signing the EU agreement" and condemned any artificial barriers as pointless. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich reaffirmed his commitment to the AA during his annual Independence Day of Ukraine speech on 24 August, and called it an incentive for Ukraine to become a modern European state. In the same speech, he also called for the preservation and deepening of ties with "...Russia, countries of the Eurasian community, other world leaders and new centers of economic development." Ukrainian pro-European opposition politicians commented that Russian actions were consistent with a leaked document outlining a Russian Government strategy to enlarge the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia to Ukraine and to prevent its further association with Euro-Atlantic structures. Among other things, the 14-page document lists efforts to promote pro-Russian media outlets and opinion makers, sanctioning pro-European Ukrainian activists, politicians and businessmen, efforts to elect pro-Russian Viktor Medvedchuk as president in 2015 and a subsequent purge of pro-European civil servants. The paper also mentions cooperation with Belarus in this regard. Experts commenting on the "leaked document" argued that Medvedchuk had no chance of winning the 2015 Presidential election and could not seriously disrupt the signing of the AA.
On 19 September 2013 President Putin stated that Russia would impose "protectionist measures" against Ukraine once the EU AA was implemented. A day after this, Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma (Russia's main parliament) committee on international affairs commented that Ukraine was entering into an EU "semi-colonial dependence". On 8 October 2013 President Putin stated the free trade agreement "may create certain problems for trade and cooperation. Certain damage may be done to the economic sphere but we will not have any problems in the political field, I am certain". On 24 October 2013 he added that if the AA was signed by Ukraine, Ukrainian products would not enjoy the benefits of products from the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in Russia, but that "Ukrainian goods will be in the same position as goods from other countries of the world that are WTO members".
Suspension of association agreement signature
On 21 November 2013 the Verkhovna Rada failed to pass any of the six motions on allowing former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to receive medical treatment abroad, which was an EU demand for signing the association agreement. (The same week Tymoshenko had stated that she was ready to ask the EU to drop the demand for her freedom if it meant President Viktor Yanukovych would sign the association agreement.) The same day a Ukrainian government decree suspended preparations for signing of association agreement; instead it proposed the creation of a three-way trade commission between Ukraine, the European Union and Russia that would resolve trade issues between the sides. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov issued the decree in order to "ensure the national security of Ukraine" and in consideration of the possible ramfications of trade with Russia (and other CIS countries) if the agreement was signed on a 28–29 November summit in Vilnius. According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko Ukraine will resume preparing the agreement "when the drop in industrial production and our relations with CIS countries are compensated by the European market, otherwise our country's economy will sustain serious damage". Some EU diplomats were more sceptical of the reasons put forward. Later on 21 November 2013, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov called the Ukrainian decree "a strictly internal and sovereign decision of the country, and we think we have no right to comment on it" and stated that Russia was prepared to have tripartite negotiations with Ukraine and the EU on trade and economic issues. The European Parliament's monitoring mission in Ukraine stated (also on 21 November 2013) that there was still has a chance to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The same day Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych stated "an alternative for reforms in Ukraine and an alternative for European integration do not exist...We are walking along this path and are not changing direction".[nb 3]
In the following days, Euromaidan, the biggest protests since the Orange Revolution, were being held in Kiev by opposition parties. On 26 November 2013 the Ukrainian Government admitted that Russia had asked it to delay signing the EU association agreement and that it "wanted better terms for the EU deal". "As soon as we reach a level that is comfortable for us, when it meets our interests, when we agree on normal terms, then we will be talking about signing," President Yanukovych stated in a televised interview. The same day Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to the criticism of the Ukrainian decision to delay the association agreement, and that the EU deal was bad for Russia's security interests. Putin was responding to statements by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso that had stated they "strongly disapproved" of Russia's actions. On 26 November 2013 Prime Minister Azarov stated during a government meeting "I affirm with full authority that the negotiating process over the Association Agreement is continuing, and the work on moving our country closer to European standards is not stopping for a single day". President Yanukovych still attend the 28–29 November EU summit in Vilnius but the Association Agreement was not signed. During this summit the European Union and Ukraine initialed an Air Services Agreement. Also during the summit, President Yanukovych stated that Ukraine still wanted to sign the Association Agreement but that it needed substantial financial aid to compensate it for the threatened response from Russia, and he proposed starting three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, and the EU. He also urged Brussels to help Ukraine soften the terms of a possible loan from the IMF. The EU rejected trilateral talks and asked Yanukovich to commit to sign the Association Agreement, which he refused to do. At the end of a summit President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso stated that the EU will not tolerate "a veto of a third country" in their negotiations on closer integration with Ukraine. He also stated "We are embarked on a long journey, helping Ukraine to become, as others, what we call now, 'new member states'. But we have to set aside short-term political calculations."
President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy added that "we may not give in to external pressure, not at least from Russia". Barroso reiterated that the EU's offer to Ukraine in terms of signing an Association Agreement remained on the table.[nb 4] Simultaneously, President Yanukovych stated that he still intends to sign the Association Agreement at a later date "once we get down to work and find solutions for economic problems, when we get the opportunity to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Russia and everything else that we need to do, so that normal relations can be established between the European Union, Russia, and Ukraine… this is our responsibility".
The Urgent Measures for European Integration of Ukraine was an action plan issued by the Decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on March 12, 2013 for integration of Ukraine with the European Union (EU), adopted by the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (of the second Azarov Government) (№ 73-р) on February 13, 2013, and entered into force by the Decree of President Viktor Yanukovych (№ 127/2013).
The plan was aimed to facilitate the process of preparation of Ukraine signing their Association Agreement with the EU, which was planned for 28 November 2013. On 21 November 2013, the Ukrainian government suspended preparations for signing an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union,[nb 5] which lead to the start of the Euromaidan protests in November 2013.
- Plan structure
The plan includes measures for implementing conditions set by the EU for signing the agreement:
- preparation of Ukraine for the future implementation of the Association Agreement;
- cooperation between Ukraine and the EU in the areas of justice, freedom and security;
- reform of Ukrainian judicial system, law enforcement agencies, election system, fight on corruption;
- trade, economic, and sectorial cooperation;
- improvement of the business climate in the country.
- The Communist Party of Ukraine wants Ukraine to join the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
- President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated on 7 October 2013 that he "didn't see any problems" in the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.
- The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė stated on 22 November 2013 that Yanukovych had told her in a telephone conversation that he could not sign the association agreement because Russia had threatened Ukraine with restrictions on its commodities imports to Russia and he believed that this would make Ukraine suffer billions in losses.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated during the summit of Ukraine signing their Association Agreement, "I don't have any hope that it will happen this time but the door is open", and that "the Ukrainian president has decided that he does not want this. The door to Europe remains open. We must continue to work. A difficult path is to be walked".
- Ukranian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stated that the issue that blocked the signature of the EU deal was conditions proposed for an International Monetary Fund loan being negotiated at the same time, which would require large budget cuts and a 40% increase in gas bills. On 7 December 2013 the IMF clarified that it was not insisting on a single-stage increase in natural gas tariffs in Ukraine by 40%, but recommended that they be gradually raised to an economically justified level while compensating the poorest segments of the population for the losses from such an increase by strengthening targeted social assistance. The same day, IMF Resident Representative in Ukraine Jerome Vacher stated that this particular IMF loan was worth 4 billion US Dollars and that it would be linked with "policy, which would remove disproportions and stimulated growth".
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