Wednesday

29th Mar 2017

EU gives Ukraine enlargement hint

  • Sikorski (c): 'It’s more than many were ready to accept even this morning' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU countries have for the first time since the Orange Revolution indicated that Ukraine might one day join the European Union.

The bloc’s foreign ministers said in a joint statement in Brussels on Monday (10 February): “The Council expresses its conviction that this agreement does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine co-operation."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The “agreement” is the EU’s current offer of a political association and free trade treaty.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton declined to go further than the carefully worded communique, which falls far short of the explicit EU promise given to the Western Balkan states. “The words mean what they say,” she told press in the EU capital.

Germany said nothing on the matter.

But Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski, who proposed the “final goal” statement, gave the words more force.

Referring to article 49 of the EU treaty, which says any “European state” can join if it meets criteria, he told media: “We have opened the door and given the hope to the Ukrainian nation that, if Ukraine embarks on the course of reform, then it has the chance to take full advantage of European integration and treaty provisions.”

He described the EU ministers’ debate as “emotional … lively,” adding: “It’s more than many were ready to accept even this morning, so I consider it an achievement.”

He noted the EU is making a special effort on Ukraine, because Poland itself did not have any “enlargement perspective” when it signed its EU association pact in 1993, 11 years before it joined.

The EU ministers also discussed the prospect of EU financial aid for Ukraine and the threat of sanctions.

Sikorski said “various estimates” of potential EU and International Monetary Fund assistance for Ukraine if it makes reforms add up to €20 billion.

But other ministers noted this is the same offer which was on the table before the protests broke out, despite recent remarks by Ashton the EU is working on a new “Ukrainian Plan.”

"We as the EU cannot enter in a competition of billions compared to what Russia can put at Ukraine's disposal. The EU could not come up with that kind of money on its own. So we have to dismiss any impressions there is such a competition,” Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

On sanctions, Sikorski said Ashton on her two last visits to Kiev conveyed a “very strong mesage” there would be “consequences” if Ukrainian authorities used force to break up protests.

Steinmeier noted that talks between opposition MPs and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have hit a “standstill.”

He added: “Today there was a clear consensus that as long as there are changes and improvements in the government-opposition talks, there is no need to decide on sanctions. But if the time comes that we say Yanukovych and his people are blocking talks, we'll have to decide on sanctions."

Luxembourg’s Jean Asselborn noted it is “unfortunate,” that Ukraine’s former PM, Mykola Azarov, who is widely blamed for the initial wave of police brutality, “left Kiev on a private plane to another country and there is speculation that this man is very, very rich.”

The country in question is Austria, according to reports in Ukrainian independent media.

Steinmeier and Asselborn also complained about the US approach to Ukraine.

Their comments come after a bugged phone call by the US’ top official on Europe, Victoria Nuland, was uploaded on YouTube in which she, now famously, said “fuck the EU.”

Asselborn remarked it is not the expletive itself which caused “annoynace” but “the belief that the EU is not capable of handling the situation and is letting Russia do what it wants.”

Steinmeier made the same point.

“Ultimately, it is not the line that bothers me … what bothers me is the attitude behind it,” he said.

“The belief that situations that are not easily changed from outside can be changed just by telling the Europeans they are too lenient with conflictual partners, and that a few sanctions would move things which are blocked. This does not correspond to my analysis of the conflicts that have taken place in our neighbourhood in the last few years.”

Opinion

Time for EU to get serious on Ukraine

The EU’s language of “concern” has worn thin on the cold streets of Kiev: People need a promise of accession and practical help for genuine reform.

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

News in Brief

  1. Scottish MPs give go ahead to seek referendum
  2. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  3. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  4. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  5. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  6. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  7. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  8. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans