Ukraine halts integration with EU, to develop relations with Russia

Kiev, November 22, 2013

The Ukrainian cabinet has explained the decision to suspend preparation of the association agreement with the EU out of the necessity for developing economic relations with Russia and CIS, reports RIA-Novosti.

From the resolution of the Ukrainian government: "To suspend the process of preparation to conclude the association agreement between the Ukraine on the one part and the European Union, the European community on atomic power and with member-countries on the other part, and the September 18, 2013 resolution of the Ukrainian cabinet, "On preparation for signing of the draft agreement of association between the Ukraine on the one part and the European Union and its member-countries on the other part"".

Profile ministers were also commissioned to propose that Russia and the EU form a trilateral commission on the issues of economic and commercial relations.

From the resolution of the Ukrainian government: "To the Ministry of External Affairs together with the Ministry of Economic Development and Commerce and the Ministry of Industrial Policy: to propose the European Union and the Russian Federation to make a trilateral commission for groundwork of a complex of questions, intended for restoration of the lost volumes of output and direction of economic and commercial relations, expansion and promotion of international trade, further liberalization of market, harmonization of the regulative base for improvement of conditions of realization of the business activity".

At the same time, the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich said that Kiev would continue to go towards the European integration in spite of the difficulties.

Says Yanukovich: "We are not far from the top of the hill. We are not afraid of difficulties, and we feel certain that we must go further down the path of European integration. Regarding this issue (release of Yulia Timoshenko), there are conflicting opinions among the factions of the Ukrainian parliament. This issue spilled out into the society and into the sphere of the international relations. Release of Mrs Timoshenko must be considered, first of all, within legal boundaries".

Representatives of the working group of the Ukrainian parliament on development of a compromise bill concerning medical treatment abroad of the convicted ex-premier Yulia Timoshenko said that they would continue the work on a coordinated document, regardless of the government’s decision to suspend the E.U. agreement.

As the president of Lithuania Dalia Grybaskaite noted (cited by the France Presse agency), the Ukraine still has the chance to sign the integration agreement with the EU, although the cabinet refused to send Timoshenko abroad.

"Until the final moment, it still depends upon the Ukraine to sign the agreement," noted Grybauskaite.

Earlier than November 21, Vladimir Putin said that Russia was not against the sovereign choice of the Ukraine regarding the integration with Europe, but would be absolutely against its entry into NATO.

"We are not against the sovereign choice of the Ukraine, whatever it is. We are talking about a different thing. If we were told that the Ukraine was joining the NATO, then we would be really against it, since drawing a military bloc near our borders poses a danger to us. Economic associations, however, bear no danger to the country's defense potential," said Putin.

The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Minister for Trade Andrei Slepnev said, "Now it is necessary to make efforts to develop our economic and commercial relations between the Customs Union states and the Ukraine; to search for how our economy can strengthen each other's positions on the world business arena. In the environment of global economic recession, that will be beneficial for each side".

The Russian president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia naturally welcomes any initiative by the Ukraine, Russia’s closest partner, and Russia has indicated its willingness for trilateral negotiations for commercial partnership with the Ukraine and the E.U, Russia considers the Ukraine’s decision to halt the association agreements with the E.U. is the Ukraine’s own decision as a sovereign nation, and Russia makes no comment on it

The German Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle commented, "Our interest in good relations with the Ukraine is unchangeable, our invitation to the genuine partnership remains in force. However, this means that Kiev is supposed to be willing to follow the European way of development. The ball is at the Ukraine's side. That is its sovereign right—to determine its path freely".

Vice-chairman of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee Andrei Klimov states, "In Ukrainian society, there cannot be a consensus on this issue (whether to cooperate with the EU or Russia). Much depends on the personalities and on the current situation. The "balance indicator" is now slightly on the side of Russia, earlier it was slightly on the side of the EU. One should not trust that this (the latest resolution of the cabinet) is serious and of long duration. Even if the signing of the agreement with the EU, scheduled for November 28, does not take place, it does not mean that the Ukrainian politicians will give up this idea. Those who stand for the integration processes with Russia, comprise the majority of the electorate in the east and, partly, in Kiev; those who support cooperation with the EU are in the west. In any case, the election will be hot and it is impossible to predict the results".

The leader of the Batkivshchyna faction (an anti-Yanukovich party whose center is in the western Ukraine) Arseny Yatsenyuk called the president’s refusal to sign an “act of treason” and “grounds for impeachment”.

Vice-premier of the Ukraine Yury Boiko, however, states that the government made this decision for with the exclusive aim of protecting the country’s national interests and economic stability.

The analytic website EU observer has noted that things are not as black and white—EU vs. Russia—as they may seem. It notes that the “association agreement” was long, complex, and intentional worded in a way that would keep the Ukraine at arm’s length. Any visa concessions were only on paper—in reality, it was just as hard (an expensive) as ever for Ukrainians to receive EU visas. Furthermore, promises in trade agreements were vague and outlined in English, looking in the short term, at least, only advantageous to the EU. Whereas Russia speaks the Ukrainian Slavic language both literally and figuratively, and short term gains or losses were much more tangible and predictable.

One German economist has noted that in the final analysis, the EU was not offering the Ukraine very much money, bound up as it is with other failing EU states.

According to EU observer, one Ukrainian diplomat described shades of Yalta, 1945. "It's as if the Germans have done a deal with Russia: 'This is ours. This is yours. You can do with it what you want'.”


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