• Poroshenko in parliament on Saturday (Photo: president.gov.ua)

Poroshenko: 'My pen is in my hands' to sign EU pact

08.06.14 @ 14:33

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Ukraine’s new President, Petro Poroshenko, at his "modest" inauguration said he wants to sign an EU trade treaty as soon as possible.

“My pen is in my hands and as soon as the EU approves the respective decision, the signature of the President of Ukraine will appear in this fateful document,” he said in a speech at the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on Saturday (7 June).

“We consider it as the first step toward full membership in the EU. Nobody has the right to veto the European choice of Ukraine,” he added.

“We, the people who were isolated from their great European homeland, are coming home.”

The EU pact means Ukraine can have free trade with Russia, but is legally bound to stay out of Moscow's Eurasian Union.

It is known in EU circles as “accession-lite” because it also obliges Ukraine to align itself with the minutsiae of single market rules.

EU ambassadors are to meet in Brussels on Wednesday to adopt a decision to sign.

The Union intends to sign it along with Georgia and Moldova treaties in the EU capital on 27 June, but officials have not ruled out doing it earlier.

Poroshenko also outlined a peace plan for east Ukraine.

He said pro-Russia gunmen who are not guilty of killing people can have amnesty and offered “a corridor for Russian mercenaries who would like to return home.”

He called for local elections to pick new leaders for talks on "decentralisation" and “guaranteed” the “free usage of Russian language".

He laid down some red lines, however.

He said Ukraine will not become a federation and will not cede Crimea to Russia. He added that Ukrainian will remain the “single state language".

Poroshenko, himself a minor oligarch, also promised to fight corruption.

“We need a national anti-corruption pact between the government and the people. It is simple: Officials do not take and people do not give. We won't be able to change the country unless we change ourselves, our attitude to life,” he said.

The inauguration was attended by EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy, the Presidents of Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, the Prime Ministers of Hungary and Latvia, the Canadian Prime Minister, and the US vice president.

The President of Belarus and the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan also came despite their countries' alliance with Russia.

Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite said the ceremony was “modest” compared to the style of ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych.

Poroshenko went from the Verkhovna Rada to the second part of the event, in Kiev's St. Sophia cathedral, in an unescorted car through normal traffic and greeted people when he arrived.

A small incident created a buzz in social media.

One of the guards by the red carpet outside parliament half-fainted in the heat and dropped his rifle. Poroshenko spoke with him before the soldier was escorted away.

People said on Twitter and Facebook the fallen rifle and Poroshenko’s gesture is an omen of peace. They also made fun of an incident in 2010, when Yanukovych was going into parliament for his inauguration and a guard's hand slipped on the door, which almost closed in Yanukovych's face.

Fighting continues

EU diplomats say it was a "good sign" that Poroshenko met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a D-Day anniversary in France on Friday.

But Putin said afterward he would adopt trade restrictions if Ukraine signs the EU pact. "As soon as the treaty is signed and comes into force, we will be taking measures to secure the [Russian] economy,” he told a state broadcaster, Russia Today.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in east Ukraine on Saturday and Sunday.

A rebel leader, Fyodor Berezin, told the Reuters news agency that he rejects Poroshenko’s peace plan.

“What they really want is one-sided disarmament and for us to surrender. That will never happen … As long as Ukrainian troops are on our soil, I can see that all Poroshenko wants is subjugation,” Berezin said.