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20th Jan 2020

Ukraine lowers ambitions for EU summit

  • The pre-summit maneuvering comes amid a sharp deterioration in EU-Ukraine relations in recent weeks (Photo: thisisbossi)

Ukrainian negotiators have said there is no need to initial an EU trade and association pact at a summit in Kiev in December as previously planned.

Deputy foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin told press in Brussels on Monday (7 November) "For me, it [the summit] is not about deliverables in a formal way ... We need a powerful statement, that we have concluded all the negotiations, but whether we initial it or not is less important."

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He quipped that the trade part of the agreement itself has 1,800 pages, making it physically hard to put the chief negotiators' initials on every page in just one day.

The change of plan comes amid Ukrainian complaints that the EU is unwilling to include a clear promise on future accession in the pact.

An EU diplomat noted that making a "political statement" without the formal act of completion leaves Ukraine free to reopen talks on the accession promise at a later date. "They are thinking: 'Better wait and play some more. Nothing is decided until everything is decided.' But they know there is no EU consensus on enlargement. So this puts things on a knife edge. It puts the whole deal into deep freeze," the contact said.

The pre-summit manoeuvring comes amid a sharp deterioration in EU-Ukraine relations in recent weeks.

EU leaders snubbed President Viktor Yanukovych last month by cancelling a meeting in Brussels after he jailed his political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.

His tough line on accession could be a pretext to bin the EU pact, freeing him to consolidate power at home and to focus on Ukraine-Russia relations instead. The new line on initialing could also be a face-saving exercise in case the EU side pulls back from the deal because of the Tymoshenko problem.

Klimkin on Monday said he was confident the summit will go ahead on 19 December because the EU would "send the wrong signal" if it also cancelled the event.

But faced with the prospect of Tymoshenko stuck behind bars while EU officials Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso pose for snaps with Yanukovych, the EU side is not so sure.

Asked if the summit will definitely take place, EU foreign relations spokeswoman Maja Kocjancic told EUobserver on Monday: "We are working on the assumption that it will go ahead as foreseen but obviously I can't be 100 percent certain."

The EU diplomat noted: "I think Barroso and Van Rompuy realise they went a bit over the top [in cancelling the October meeting]. If nothing else negative happens, the summit should go ahead. But if nothing positive happens, the atmosphere will be very cold."

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