Februar 08, 2013

Ukraine: "It's Now or Never" to decide on EU

EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton communicated the willingness of Brussels to hold EU-Ukraine summit in early 2013. The European Commission announced on 20 December 2012 that an EU-Ukraine summit would be held on 25 February 2013. The timetable is set. Prior to the upcoming summit the warnings are clear and there some preconditions to be resolved before signing any document: former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko cases, choice between EU or Moscow's Customs Union. So it is up to Ukraine to do its best and perform with the guidelines of the European Union. The main message is: Reform yourself or forget about us!

Dalia Grybauskaitė, Viktor Yanukovych
 Foto: President of the Republic of Lithuania
The European Union rings the alarm bells with questions: Tymoshenko, Lutsenko cases, choice between EU or Moscow's Customs Union.

During his visit to Lithuania, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych earned much support but open questions were addressed. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite reaffirmed the EU's readiness to sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine. "Ukraine is important to the European Union. Lithuania consistently supports its determination to proceed on the path to European integration. However, European future of Ukraine and its people is in its own hands," she said. The signs are favorable at the moment, but a lot of work must be done by Ukraine.
Dalia Grybauskaite strongly opposed to this development if Ukraine does not consider further steps: Tymoshenko, Lutsenko cases, choice between EU or Moscow's Customs Union: "The President stressed that the EU is keeping a close eye on political opponents' cases. The hearing of these cases will have crucial importance to the EU-Ukraine relations. Selective justice encumbers the dialogue with the EU, forming an unfavorable political context. On Ukraine's ability to address these problems will largely depend the possibility to sign the Association Agreement with the EU," she said. However, the decision should be taken by Ukraine. "Europe will not dictate to Ukraine how to settle the issue. The imprisonment of opposition leaders is not a worthy decision, and that's why we are addressing the authorities to recall that further delay in a decision on these politically motivated cases might result in the further protraction of the signing of the agreement," the president said at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Vilnius, cited by Interfax-Ukraine. 
On the issue European Union vs. Customs Union Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite clearly points out that Kiev can choose only one way: "The answer is very simple – two agreements are not compatible, and Ukraine will have to choose one or the other. Free trade agreement with the EU and its economic and political principles do not allow integrating into other commercial structures. Of course, it does not mean that Ukraine cannot trade with third countries, including Russia, but participation in the Customs Union would mean that the Free trade Agreement and the EU is unavailable," said Grybauskaite, cited by The Baltic Course.
Stefan Füle, Mykola Azarov;
Foto: Photographic service of the Council of the EU © European Communities
A "window of opportunity" that should be opened. Mixed and generally optimistic signals come from Stefan Füle who visits Ukraine on 7-8 February 2013.

"We have a window of opportunity. But time is short. What is needed is efficient cross party effort and support for European Union-related reforms that can bring some first tangible results, not reflections on geopolitics where interests are pursued at the expense of values. Because if we - Ukraine and the EU - miss the November deadline, there is nothing like “December deadline” or “January 2014 deadline”. Timing matters in politics. And to generate a new political momentum, it will take months if not years if you look at the political calendar in the EU and in Ukraine," Stefan Füle said in a speech to the Members of the Ukrainian Parliament

The European Union is ready for signing an association agreement with Ukraine  if there is progress on three issues: reform of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and human rights, the fight against corruption as well as increasing citizens’ participation in public decision-making in Ukraine: "This can happen as soon as there is determined action and tangible progress on specific benchmarks in three areas: to follow up on the shortcomings of the parliamentary elections, to address the issue of selective justice and prevent recurrence and to make progress on reforms as defined in the joint Association Agenda. I am talking about areas such as the reform of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and human rights, the fight against corruption as well as increasing citizens’ participation in public decision-making in Ukraine," Stefan Füle said in his speech to the Members of the Ukrainian Parliament.

The time has gone whereas Ukraine can make a choice between the European Union and the Russia's led Customs Union. The European Union has set a deadline: November 2013. Askold Krushelnycky points out in Foreign Policy: "Ukraine has long faced a choice: Should it cast its lot with Russia or the European Union? 2013 is shaping up to be the year Kyiv finally decides."

For the first time the European Union makes it very clear that there is no time for cat-and-mouse games regarding the future of EU-Ukraine relations. The European Union urges Ukraine to approve the urgent need to strengthen its position on the European Union.

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