Tuesday

26th Sep 2017

Legal quibble delays preparations for EU-Ukraine pact

  • EU diplomats expect to tidy up the legal language in time for a decision next week (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU has put off an internal decision on the Ukraine trade treaty over a technicality, amid a “nervous” atmosphere on the fate of the accord.

EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (11 June) had planned to adopt a common decision to sign the text, paving the way for a signature ceremony by leaders at an EU summit on 27 June.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But a verdict by the EU court in Luxembourg on Wednesday morning stopped them from going ahead.

The verdict, in a case on an EU-Philippines treaty from 2012, said the EU used the wrong formula to enshrine British, Danish, and Irish opt-outs from some parts of EU law into the legal basis of the Philippines pact.

With the EU planning to use the same formula in the Ukraine text, ambassadors put off their decision until next week, pending clarification.

The European Commission the same day published a statement saying the 27 June ceremony is not in doubt.

“The EU-Ukraine association agreement will be signed as soon as possible and at the latest on 27/6 at the June European Council together with the association agreements with Georgia and Moldova,” it noted.

One EU diplomat added: “Even those member states who were reluctant in the past are all saying: ‘We really want to sign on 27 June’. That’s the important thing”.

The technical glitch comes amid tension in Brussels and Kiev that either side could back out at the last minute due to Russian pressure.

“The [opt-out] countries affected will need to have some bilateral consultations with the EU Council’s legal services and I very much hope this isn’t an issue that will become a stumbling block,” a second EU diplomat said.

“We still have time to adopt the decision ahead of the summit. But this makes us a little nervous. Each and every day, or week, opens new possibilities to disrupt the process”.

The legal wobble came the same day Russia and Ukraine failed to reach agreement on gas prices, adding to uncertainty on the consequences of the EU-Ukraine deal.

Russia said if it does not get a first payment based on a price of $385 per thousand cubic metres by 9am on Monday, it might be forced to halt supplies, with knock-on effects for EU countries who get Russian gas via Ukraine.

Ukraine said it wants $268.5 and legal guarantees the new price will stay in place. It threatened to take the case to a tribunal in Stockholm if need be.

Russia is also see-sawing on whether it will impose trade penalties on Ukraine.

Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will impose protectionist measures “as soon as” Ukraine signs the EU pact. But on Tuesday foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said “we will not impose sanctions against Ukraine”.

Putin on Friday met Ukraine’s new leader, Petro Poroshenko.

The meeting raised EU hopes the crisis will abate. But fighting between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces in east Ukraine has continued to intensify.

The Reuters news agency says thousands of people have fled the city of Slaviansk amid an exchange of mortar and artillery fire. Ukraine says at least 270 people have died in the region since fighting began.

The US-based NGO, Human Rights Watch, last week warned that while rebels are “operating in populated residential areas” their “criminal conduct … does not relieve the Ukrainian forces of their obligations to act in accordance with international law”.

The rebels are suspected to be holding eight monitors and a Ukrainian interpreter working for the OSCE, a multilateral body based in Vienna.

Its secretary general, Lamberto Zannier, said in Moscow on Wednesday the kidnapping is “unacceptable - I think we should all keep insisting on their immediate and unconditional release”.

News in Brief

  1. Tusk: No sufficient progress yet in Brexit talks
  2. EU commission provides €2mn for food quality studies
  3. Almost a third of Europeans unaware of cost-free roaming
  4. No immediate declaration after Tallinn digital summit
  5. Alternative women's rights fund raises €292mn
  6. Russian gay rights activist calls for EU action
  7. Food maker shamed on inferior products in Croatia
  8. British PM to meet EU president on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressExpresses Concern Over Worrying Gains for the Far-Right AfD
  2. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  3. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  4. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  5. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  6. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  7. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought I 27 September, 2017
  8. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  10. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  11. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  12. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels

Latest News

  1. Egg scare prompts EU to consider national food safety officers
  2. EU commission says Spanish website seizures are legal
  3. EU commission sees 'more evidence' of dual food quality
  4. A social Europe needs better housing
  5. London firms seek free trade after Brexit
  6. Macron to lay out plan for EU 'pioneers'
  7. Polish president disappoints EU on judicial reform
  8. Italy brushes off southern alliance in EU agency race