Saturday

19th Oct 2019

Little to celebrate at EU-Ukraine summit

  • Fighting with Russia-controlled forces in east Ukraine continues to simmer as Poroshenko comes to Brussels (Photo: president.gov.ua)

EU leaders have pledged to uphold sanctions on Russia in the run-up to the Ukraine summit this week, but the declaration comes amid multiplying uncertainties over the future of Ukraine ties.

The German, French, Italian and Spanish leaders, at a meeting with outgoing US president Barack Obama in Berlin on Friday (18 November) promised to extend the life of economic sanctions on Russia before they expire on 31 January.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Dutch government using April's referendum to carve holes in EU-Ukraine treaty, Kiev says (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The formal decision is likely to be taken at an EU summit on 15 December, EU diplomats said, despite on and off grumblings by Russia-friendly states, such as Greece, Hungary, and Italy that the EU should normalise ties with Moscow.

Speaking in Berlin on Friday, British leader Theresa May indicated the EU might even blacklist more Russian officials over Russia’s escalating air strikes against civilians in rebel enclaves in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

“On Syria, of course looking at Aleppo, we were united in our condemnation of the atrocities that are taking place there … We agreed the need to keep up pressure on Russia, including the possibility of sanctions on those who breach international humanitarian law”, she said.

The statements come ahead of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s visit to the EU capital on Thursday (24 November).

They also come amid uncertainty over Western solidarity on Russia after US president-elect Donald Trump comes into office on 20 January.

Trump, in his campaign speeches, repeated the Russian propaganda line that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is “not going into Ukraine” and said that he would “look into” recognising Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Putin, speaking at a summit in Lima on Sunday, said that Trump had not changed his mind.

"The president-elect confirmed he is willing to normalise Russian-American relations. I told him the same”, the Russian leader said.

Poroshenko’s agenda in Brussels will also include talks on the “reform process and [the] EU-Ukraine association agreement”, on visa-free travel for Ukrainian nationals to the EU, and on “Moldova/Transnistria”, the Ukrainian embassy to the EU has said.

Corruption

The “reform process” centres around measures to rein in corruption in Ukrainian politics.

Ukraine, in late October, brought into life a new online system in which officials declare their private assets.

That was one of the key EU demands in order to release more financial aid and to move ahead on the visa-waiver.

It showed the extent to which even the new generation of post-revolutionary officials have accumulated vast private wealth despite their meagre salaries, however.

Prime minister Volodymyr Groysman declared $1.2 million and €460,000 in cash and a collection of luxury watches. Roman Nasirov, the head of the state fiscal service, said he and his wife owned Swiss watches, diamonds, and fur coats as well as $2 million in cash.

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, brought in as governor of the Odessa region in order to fight graft, also resigned two weeks ago while accusing Poroshenko himself of protecting mafia structures.

The EU is preparing to release another €600 million in aid on Thursday to invest in transport infrastructure in Ukraine despite the revelations.

The summit will have to put a positive spin on the fact that the future of EU-Ukraine ties - the association agreement - remains in doubt as the Netherlands continues to ponder how to handle a referendum, in April, in which people voted to block ratification of the accord.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte is in talks with opposition politicians at home, his EU colleagues, and Ukrainian diplomats on a solution that could entail attaching a new declaration to the accord.

No one has yet seen Rutte’s draft text, but a Ukrainian source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Dutch leader wants the statement to say that Ukraine is not in line to join the EU, should not engage in military cooperation, and should not receive any extra funds.

The referendum was non-binding, but the source said that Rutte’s team has seized on the opportunity to shrink the scope of future cooperation.

Visa talks

The EU visa-free deal also remains in suspension.

EU ambassadors last week said that member states had agreed to go ahead, but only once a new EU law is put in place that would allow states to freeze the waiver in the event of mass overstays.

The Ukraine summit, which had been due earlier this year, was delayed, in part, to enable Europe to announce the visa-free accord at the Poroshenko meeting, but that is no longer possible due to the EU conditionality.

Mykola Tochytskyi, Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, told the Financial Times newspaper that the summit will be needed to send a good “signal” to the Ukrainian people on future relations.

Roman Sohn, a Ukrainian civil society activist and a columnist for the Ukrainska Parvda news website, told EUobserver: “It is certainly too early to celebrate the visa-free regime. The EU is further undermining its trustworthiness as a reliable partner with the Ukrainian people”.

With Moldova, last weekend, having also elected a pro-Russia candidate, Igor Dodon, there will also be little good to say on the “Moldova/Transnistria” point on Thursday’s agenda.

Moldova had been the front-runner in the EU’s “eastern partnership” policy to build closer ties with former Soviet states.

It already has EU visa-free perks, but even that concession, enacted despite widespread corruption allegations, appears to have done little to stop the EU’s allure from fading on its eastern flank.

Dutch MPs extend deadline on Ukraine deal

Parliament gives prime minister Mark Rutte until mid-December to find a compromise that takes into account voters' rejection of an EU-Ukraine trade deal.

Focus

Denmark leads Ukraine anti-corruption drive

The EU has unveiled an anti-corruption scheme for Ukraine, amid concerns that its officials and lawmakers are undermining a key reform in the fight against villainy.

Feature

Crimeans seek stable life under Russian control

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, there has been a somewhat mixed reaction to the increased Russian presence on the peninsula. Some welcome it, others reject it in hushed voices.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us