Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

Brussels and Kiev to discuss ties ahead of crucial elections

  • Three years after the Orange revolution, Ukraine's EU perpspective remains unclear (Photo: timoshenko.com.ua)

EU and Ukrainian leaders will today (14 September) meet to discuss advancements on a new bilateral agreement with Kiev hoping it will make a clearer allusion to eventual EU integration, but Brussels is still keeping Ukraine at arm's length.

During the meeting, both Ukrainian president Viktor Yuschenko and prime minister Viktor Yanukovich will "put forward" Ukraine's hopes for a signal on possible future EU membership for the country, Ukrainian foreign minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told Ukrainian daily newspaper Den.

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Ukraine will again insist on mentioning membership in the enhanced agreement, one Ukrainian diplomat confirmed to EUobserver, specifying that Kiev is not demanding any reference to dates, but only to the perspective of EU membership.

The enhanced agreement between the EU and Ukraine will be the next framework for their bilateral relations, after the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) expires in 2008.

The country has been knocking on the EU's doors since the so-called "orange revolution" took place there in 2004 bringing the then opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko coalition to power.

Last week, once again, Ukraine's ambassador to the EU Roman Shpek affirmed that the European neighbourhood policy – which defines the bloc's relations with its closest neighbours, but without offering a membership perspective, "cannot be accepted as an adequate basis for EU-Ukrainian relations".

Despite praising Kiev's progress and reforms, the EU, which will once again encourage Ukraine to hold its forthcoming elections in a democratic and transparent manner, has refused to give any clear signs that it could one day accept Ukraine as a full member.

Visas and elections

The implementation of a visa facilitation agreement signed last June and fixing visa fees at €35 for Ukrainian citizens wishing to enter Schengen zone countries will also be on the table.

The agreement has still to be ratified by both Ukraine and the EU member states before entering into force – something that the EU hopes will be achieved by the end of this year. The document would harmonise rules among Schengen countries and make the obtaining of a visa easier for some categories of people – students for instance.

However, Ukraine is unhappy that its citizens will soon need to pay the €35-fee to enter countries such as Poland - once it joins the EU's borderless zone, while most Ukrainians live on less than €200 a month. Until now, visas for Ukrainians going to neighbouring Poland were free of charge.

Other issues on the agenda of tomorrow's high-level meeting will include economic cooperation, energy security and trade. Ukraine is hoping for continued EU backing for its application to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

This would bring Kiev closer to the establishment of a free trade zone with the EU, which is currently one of its main trade partners.

The annual summit comes barely two weeks before early parliamentarian elections take place in Ukraine – on 30 September, following the dissolution of parliament by president Viktor Yushchenko last April.

"We expect the elections to take place following the same democratic standards as in the previous elections. The country will face important challenges in moving towards the political and constitutional stability that Ukraine vitally needs to progress further with its political and economic reforms", European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement prior to the meeting.

The outcome of those elections will "naturally be at the heart of the discussions", a Ukrainian diplomat told AFP, and the topic may partly overshadow the summit, according to some observers.

Other than Mr Barroso, External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, High Representative Javier Solana and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, will represent the 27-member bloc at the summit.

The next talks on the new enhanced agreement are due 17-18 October.

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