Friday

28th Jul 2017

EU flip flops on Ukraine corruption

  • Tusk (c) said official text of EU-Ukraine association pact more important than fumbled communique (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU officials flip-flopped on corruption and fumbled their political communique at a summit in Kiev on Thursday (13 July).

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission chief, said corruption was “one of the big problems of this country … corruption is undermining all the efforts that this brave nation is undertaking”.

  • Poroshenko said Brexit should not be “obstacle toward an expansion … of the European Union” (Photo: consilium.europa.eudering)

He also warned that “investors won’t come to your country” unless conditions improved.

He then announced a row-back on EU policy.

He said the EU had previously called for the creation of a new anti-corruption court, but it now believed that “if Ukraine introduced a chamber dedicated to dealing with this [corruption cases] into its judicial system, this would be sufficient”.

The change surprised Ukrainian activists, such as the NGO Reanimation Package of Reforms, who doubt Ukraine’s old guard of judges would deliver independent trials.

Juncker’s change also surprised his own press office, who emailed a statement on Thursday which still said “setting up a high anti-corruption court” was “vital”.

The EU’s political message was equally unclear.

European Council chief Donald Tusk gave Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko a ratified copy of an EU-Ukraine association treaty.

Tusk read out that the treaty says the EU “acknowledges the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomes its European choice”.

But the EU was unable to agree a similar statement for summit day.

It had drafted a seven-page communique on future relations which also said it “acknowledges Ukraine’s European aspirations”, but an EU source said the Dutch blocked this in light of last year’s referendum.

The Dutch wanted to say the EU has no commitment to give Ukraine candidate status, after Dutch people voted No to the association treaty last year.

The Dutch parliament ratified the agreement, but only after the 28 EU leaders said in a statement in December that the deal "does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status ... in the future."

The Estonian EU presidency preferred not to publish any statement in the end, the EU source said.

Ukraine’s Poroshenko indicated that EU relations were tending toward enlargement despite the Dutch reservations.

He said he hoped Brexit would not be an “obstacle toward an expansion … of the European Union”.

He also detailed what the EU source called Ukraine’s “wish-list” for EU integration.

He said Ukraine should join the EU’s Customs Union, its passport-free Schengen zone, its digital market, and its energy union.

He said he wanted to abolish EU phone roaming fees and for Ukrainian students to be allowed to go to EU universities.

He noted that more than 100,000 Ukrainian biometric passport holders had visited the EU since it dropped visa requirements on 11 June.

He also touched on what he called Russia’s ongoing “aggression” in east Ukraine.

"I hope that one day … we will hold another Ukraine-EU summit in Donetsk and in Yalta," Poroshenko said of two Russia-occupied Ukrainian towns.

The Commission press release said: “The European Union condemns and does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea … by the Russian Federation”.

It called for “full implementation” of a ceasefire pact which says Russian or other foreign forces should leave east Ukraine.

Russia, one day earlier, reacted harshly to US demands to give back Crimea.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman said: "The theme of returning Crimea will not be discussed ... Russia does not discuss its territorial integrity with foreign partners”.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said: “We don't give back our own territory”.

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From small businesses to commercial giants, many have been affected by the US and EU sanctions imposed after Crimea's annexation by Russia in 2014. But some locals have found ways around them.

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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.

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