Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Ukraine signals readiness to finalise EU pact

  • Yanukovych (l) in Brussels - initially seen as a Russian stooge, the Ukrainian leader has delivered on pro-EU reforms (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Ukraine's EU ambassador has hinted that Kiev is ready to sign a far-reaching pact with the union even if it makes no more concessions on the economy or pro-enlargement wording.

If all goes to plan, EU leaders and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych will in early December in Brussels scribble their initials on an Association Agreement putting Ukraine on a path to one day join the union and fully opening a market of 46 million people to EU companies.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

If the opportunity slips by, further EU-Ukraine integration will be put on hold as Ukraine and Russia head into 2012 elections, causing doubt among post-Soviet countries if the union is serious about its eastern foreign policy objectives.

Ukraine's EU ambassador, Kostyantyn Yeliseyev, told EUobserver in an interview that just two important issues stand in the way of finalisation.

On the economic side, Ukraine would like the EU to open its market for road haulage services to Ukrainian trucking firms. On the political side, it wants the EU to copy-paste Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty into the preamble of the association text, saying: "Any European state which respects [EU] values ... may apply to become a member of the union."

Noting that negotiators will meet in the EU capital on 26 September for the next round of talks, Yeliseyev said the two sides are fingertips away from agreement. "Any of the next full rounds of talks could be the last one," he said.

The normally pugnacious diplomat hinted that even if the union fails to give ground on the outstanding issues, Kiev would be happy to put pen to paper.

Asked by this website if the Association Agreement would be a huge achievement even without the final concessions, Yeliseyev answered: "It would ... This [pro-enlargement clause] is our aspiration, our ambition. But if you read out the final text of the Association Agreement [as it stands], this already sounds like an agreement for a future candidate country."

"If it happens, it will signal a great geopolitical shift in Europe. People will be able to stop discussing whether Ukraine's future lies to the east or to the West. All this will be over. We'll go West."

The optimistic view is shared by the Polish EU presidency.

Speaking to journalists in Warsaw last weekend, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski noted that the existing language of the EU-Ukraine pact is pregnant with promise. "Ukraine already has more than Poland had at the same moment in our association with Europe. When we were conducting our policy, our national obsession to get into the EU, all we had was an acknowledgement of our one-sided decision [to seek membership]," he said.

With the EU concerned that Moscow might sabotage the process or that Kiev might spoil it by jailing opposition leaders, Yeliseyev is more wary of last-minute tricks from anti-enlargement EU countries, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The ambassador said Russia recently imposed new tarrifs on Ukrainian products to show what might happen if it turns its back on the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union.

But he noted that Ukrainian business tycoons and politicians from the Russian-speaking east of the country are as much on board the EU train as its traditionally pro-EU western regions: "If any politician today in Ukraine declared himself to be against European integration, he would be politically dead."

He was less sure about the EU side.

"The nearer we get to the end, the more little obstacles seem to be emerging," Yeliseyev said. "There are several member states which don't see Ukraine as a potential EU country, which don't want to send any positive messages on enlargement."

Ukraine looks to free Tymoshenko, salvage EU pact

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has indicated he will change the law in order to end the controversial trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But the affair has done lasting damage to EU relations.

EU-Ukraine meeting increasingly unlikely

The Ukrainian government has said there is no chance former prime minister Tymoshenko will go free before a planned visit to Brussels by President Yanukovych on Thursday.

Tymoshenko to EU: I fear for my safety in prison

Embattled former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has told EUobserver that Ukraine's current administration is so rotten she is afraid of being killed while she is in prison.

EU turns the screw on Tymoshenko trial

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski has warned Ukraine EU parliaments are likely to block ratification of a landmark pact if harm comes to former leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us