Relations between Ukraine and the European Union were first established in December 1991, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, holding the Presidency of the EU at that time, officially recognized Ukrainian independence on behalf of the European Union.
The policy of Ukraine aiming to develop Ukraine – EU relations is based on the Law of Ukraine dating from the 1st of July 2010 “On the Foundations of Internal and Foreign Policy”. According to Article 11 of this Law, one of the key elements of Ukrainian external policy is «ensuring the integration of Ukraine into the European political, economic and legal area in order to obtain the EU membership».
At the same time, the intention of Ukraine to develop the relations with the EU which are based on the principles of integration was announced long time before. In the Decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Parliament of Ukraine) adopted on the 2nd of July 1993 “On the Key Directions of the Foreign Policy of Ukraine”, Ukraine declared its European integration aspirations for the first time. The document indicated that «the priority of Ukrainian foreign policy is Ukrainian membership in the European Communities, as long as it does not harm its national interests. In order to maintain stable relations with the EU, Ukraine shall conclude an Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the implementation of which shall become the first step towards its association and, later, full membership in this organization«.
The support of the EU integration course is also traditionally granted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. For instance, the corresponding provisions are contained in the Decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine “On parliamentary hearings on the cooperation of Ukraine and the EU”, approved on the 28th of November 2002; in the Declaration of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 22nd of February 2007 concerning the beginning of negotiations on the new agreement between Ukraine and the EU as well as the Decree of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 19th of May 2011 concerning recommendations of parliamentary hearings on state of affairs and perspectives of economic relations development between Ukraine and the EU and Ukraine and the Customs Union.
Decision of the state leadership of Ukraine in November 2013 to refuse from signing of Ukraine – EU Association Agreement evoked the start of the mass peaceful protest in Ukraine to protect the European aspirations of Ukrainians, called "EuroMaidan".
After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the 13th of March 2014 adopted the Resolution "On confirmation of Ukraine's course towards integration into the European Union and priority measures in this direction" confirming irreversibility of Ukraine's European integration, which aims joining the European Union. It was also noted that Ukraine as a European state that shares a common history and values with the European Union has the right to apply for a membership in the European Union in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union. By this Resolution the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine recommended the Acting President of Ukraine and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to fulfil a number of immediate steps in the sphere of European integration, especially in the context of Ukraine – EU Association Agreement conclusion.
The signing and ratification of Ukraine – EU Association Agreement in 2014 has launched the process of development of a qualitatively new form of relations on the principles of political association and economic integration.
During the signing of the Association Agreement on the 27th of June 2014 and during its ratification on the 16th of September 2014, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and the Parliament of Ukraine respectively announced statements that Ukraine considers the Association Agreement as further step towards ultimate goal of the European integration – full membership of Ukraine in the European Union.
Starting from the 1st of September 2014 relevant parts of the Association Agreement are effective under conditions of provisional application until its full entry into force upon finalization of the ratification process by all EU Member States.
Implementation of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union is being held on the basis of respective Action Plan for 2014-2017, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the 17th of September 2014.
The National Security Strategy of Ukraine, which was approved by the President of Ukraine on the 26th of May 2015, designates integration of Ukraine into the European Union as one of the main aims. According to the Strategy, Ukraine – EU Association Agreement defines strategic guidance for realization of systemic political and socio-economic reforms in Ukraine, comprehensive approximation of Ukrainian legislation to the EU norms and rules.
The EU policy regarding Ukraine
The basic principles and content of the EU policy towards Ukraine are determined by the provisions of the Association Agreement.
The European Union considers Ukraine as the country of primary importance in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), launched in 2004. The basic principles of the ENP envisage the deepening of political cooperation and economic integration between the EU and its partner countries. This policy is being extended to countries of Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus, Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, thus unifying the EU approaches towards the development of relations with countries of the specified regions. Taking into consideration the lack of membership perspectives in the ENP, Ukraine declared on the political level that such a policy is insufficient and does not reflect its European aspirations.
In 2008, under insistence of Ukraine and other EU Eastern neighbour countries and also in response to the launch of the «Union for the Mediterranean«, the EU brought forward the proposal to deepen the relations with its Eastern neighbours on the basis of new principles. The EU took its relations with Ukraine as a guide for further development of the partnership with Eastern neighbours on the principles of political association and economic integration. New initiative was named Eastern Partnership and was launched in May 2009 during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Prague. The Eastern Partnership does not provide partner countries with a perspective of candidate status. The Eastern Partnership, first of all, is a multilateral forum for a dialogue between the EU and its neighbours, taking place at regular highest level summits, foreign ministers meetings and thematic platforms at expert level; it is also the platform for exchange of experience and best practices between the EU, its Member States and partner countries in various areas. At the same time the European Union develops bilateral form of its relations with the Eastern Partnership participating states individually and on the basis of differentiation principle.
In the course of the last years, but particularly since the start of the Russian aggression against our state in 2014, the situation in Ukraine and developments around it have taken one of the most important places within the EU Common and Security Policy. “Ukrainian issue” is regularly raised in statements, resolutions, conclusions and other documents of the EU institutions and its leadership.
As of today, in conditions of the foreign aggression by Russia, the European Union takes an active stance in defence of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and provides active efforts aimed at resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, generated and supported by Russia.
In addition, the EU keeps clear and firm position of non-recognition of illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and City of Sevastopol by Russia.
The legal basis and instruments of cooperation
Conclusion of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) from the 14th of June 1994 (came into force on the 1st of March 1998) initiated the cooperation on broad range of political, economic, trade, and humanitarian issues. The conclusion of the PCA allowed to establish a regular bilateral dialogue between Ukraine and the EU on political and sectoral levels, to introduce trade regulations based on the principles of GATT/WTO, to determine the priorities of Ukrainian legislation adaptation to the European norms and standards (acquis communautaire) in main sectors of the Ukrainian economy. 7 priorities were listed in the PCA, such as: energy, trade and investments, justice and home affairs, adaptation of Ukrainian legislation to that of the EU, environment protection, transport, border cooperation, cooperation in areas of science, technology and space.
Based on the PCA, the political dialogue between Ukraine and the EU has been developed into annual meetings (Ukraine – EU Summits) with the participation of the President of Ukraine, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission; meetings of the Cooperation Council with the participation of the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country holding the rotating presidency of the EU; Committee and sectoral subcommittees responsible for cooperation between Ukraine and the EU; Parliamentary Cooperation Committee; political dialogue meetings of foreign affairs ministers; sectoral dialogues meetings; regular meetings on the working group level.
Taking into account that the 10-year term of PCA was expiring in March 2008, Ukraine and the EU launched on the 5th of March 2007 the negotiation process on a new agreement between Ukraine and the EU. Before the new agreement is signed, the PCA is automatically prolonged upon the mutual agreement of both sides. Upon the entry of Ukraine to the Word Trade Orgranization, on the 18th of February 2008 Ukraine and the EU launched negotiations on creating a free trade area, opening ways towards the liberalization of movement of goods, services, capital and non-tariff instruments of economic regulatory policy. On the 9th of September 2008, during the Paris Summit, Ukraine and the EU reached a political agreement that the future agreement between the sides would be an agreement of association type, based on the principles of political association and economic integration. During 15th Ukraine – EU Summit on the 19th of December 2011 the negotiations on the Association Agreement were announced completed and on the 30th of March 2012 the chief negotiators initialed the text of the future Agreement.
In two stages – on the 21st of March 2014 and on the 27th of June 2014 the Association Agreement was signed in Brussels by Ukraine, the EU and its Member States. On behalf of Ukraine the political part of Association Agreement was signed by the Prime Minister of Ukraine A.Yatseniuk, economic part – by the President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko. On behalf of the European Union the Agreement was signed by the heads of the EU institutions and leaders of all EU Member States.
On the 16th of September 2014 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine synchronously with the European Parliament ratified the Association Agreement. Completion of all Ukrainian and the EU necessary internal procedures allowed to start from the 1st of November 2014 the provisional application of a large part of the Association Agreement for the period prior to its full entry into force after ratification of the Agreement by all EU Member States.
Thereby, the Association Agreement forms the legal basis of cooperation between Ukraine and the EU for the medium-term perspective.
Association Agreement provides for the maintenance of regular dialogue at the highest level in the form of annual summits and the creation of new permanent bodies of bilateral cooperation – the Association Council, the Association Committee, the Association Committee in trade configuration, sectoral subcommittees of the Association Committee, The Parliamentary Association Committee and a Civil Society Platform.
With the aim to provide necessary conditions for the implementation of the provisions of future Association Agreement, during the Ukraine – EU Summit in Paris in September 2008 was decided to prepare the Association Agenda. It was approved on the 16th of July 2009 and came into force in November 2009. The Association Agenda is the document of joint ownership and common responsibility of Ukraine and the EU. It defines a wide range of tasks aimed at reforms in the political, economic and social sectors of Ukraine’s functioning in line with European principles and standards. In order to ensure the coordination of the Association Agenda implementation the Joint Committee of Senior Officials is established. The Association Agenda is being improved and complemented taking into account development of the ongoing Ukraine – EU dialogue as well as results achieved by Ukraine and its objectives in implementing internal reforms.
In spring 2014 the Government of Ukraine together with the European Commission and the European External Action Service, jointly elaborated a document called the European Reform Agenda for Ukraine. This document includes a comprehensive list of common tasks in the context of Ukraine’s development and implementation of fundamental reforms in our state. The European Reform Agenda became, in fact, a roadmap for the Ukrainian Government in implementing of its priorities of and for the EU's respective assistance to Ukraine.