Brussels, 17/10/2012 (Agence Europe) - The ambassador of Ukraine to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, was interviewed by EUROPE on Tuesday 16 October. He spoke of the association agreement, the parliamentary elections on 28 October, energy and trade (interview conducted by CG and EH).
Agence Europe: How are your relations with the EU generally speaking?
Kostiantyn Yelisieiev: Our relations are very close, constructive, deep and promising. But I would characterise them at this stage as at a moment a truth with the signature of the EU-Ukraine association agreement. I am mainly speaking about the idea of when the agreement could be signed that we initialled in March this year. Now we are waiting for a decision from the European side.
AE: Do you understand why the EU does not want to sign the agreement?
KY: The EU is hesitating about when it should be signed, but Ukraine is ready to sign any time - the sooner the better. In the current circumstances, the EU should demonstrate the sharpness of this strategic vision. I don't understand why the EU is hesitating, as it took us 5 years to negotiate this agreement which is the most ambitious that the EU has ever negotiated with a third country. This agreement will create a great impetus for the modernisation of Ukraine - its economy and society. Certainly we could use it as a real and not abstract important element of the integration of Ukraine into the EU. By reforming Ukraine, by implementing successfully the association agreement, we will create a solid foundation for future application for membership. Ideally speaking, it would create a perspective where membership would be inevitable. The main objective of the agreement is to bring Ukraine closer to European values. It should be the objective of the agreement, not the precondition for its signature.
AE: The EU is following the Ukrainian elections and seems to be concerned. Do you understand the EU's concerns?
KY: I am sure we will pass this test with dignity and success, because we have a solid legal foundation for free and fair elections with the law adopted in November 2011 by the Ukrainian parliament. Our government clearly said that it was open for international monitoring of parliamentary elections. As a result, we expect 5,000 international monitors from different institutions to follow the elections. At the same time, we are satisfied that the EU is following the elections closely. For me it is a political signal that the EU is really keen to see free and fair elections in Ukraine. Nevertheless, I urge the EU to be responsible and not to base its conclusions on a superficial analysis of the current political battle in Ukraine.
AE: Can elections be fair if people from the opposition are in jail? In this regard, the case of Yulia Tymoshenko is a big concern for the EU…
KY: This is a problem not about Yulia Tymoshenko's case. This is a problem about so called “selective justice” as the EU is used to telling us. This is a real challenge on which we focus our efforts, which include reform of the judicial and constitutional systems. Currently in Ukraine there is a real competition, and the opposition decided to participate in the elections and agreed with the rules of the game. Clearly, we have a competitive climate for the elections, with a real democratic debate in television and mass media. Once again, to judge or prejudge that the elections will be not free and fair is not correct. So let's wait for 28 October. Regardless of the future results, I am sure the elections will be in compliance with international standards.
AE: Last month the Polish president Komorowski suggested that Kiev has to choose between the EU and Russia. So your choice seems to be the EU?
KY: I am a bit little struck by this kind of philosophy. My reply is simple - let's sign the association agreement. In my view, it is up to the EU now to show they really care about the European future of Ukraine. According to a law adopted two years ago by the Ukrainian parliament, our main priority in domestic and foreign policy is EU integration. And we already pay for our European choice by overpaying for Russian gas. We completely rejected the idea proposed by Moscow of joining a customs union with Russia (plus Belarus and Kazakhstan) to get cheaper gas. But once again, signing the association agreement will end the speculations about what direction Ukraine is struggling for in terms of political cooperation - whether to go to the East or to the West. Ukraine is trying to move towards the EU.
AE: How are your relationships with the EEAS, High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fьle?
KY: I would like to underline the important role and leadership of Commissioner Fьle with a view to bringing Ukraine closer to the EU, to promoting and stimulating internal reforms in the country. He is very much committed to Ukraine's European future. About Catherine Ashton, she never ever paid a visit to Ukraine since a short courtesy visit in early 2010 after the presidential election. All my efforts to engage her in the EU-Ukraine relations, to bring her closer to Ukraine, unfortunately failed. Sometimes it is better to see than to hear about Ukraine.
AE: Regarding energy, what are the next stages of modernisation of the gas transmission system (GTS) process in Ukraine?
KY: In line with the EU-Ukraine declaration signed in March 2009, the modernisation of the Ukrainian GTS is a high priority for both the EU and Ukraine. Now we are about to complete all preparatory activity with the EU to sign a financial document with international financial institutions - the EBRD, EIB, World Bank - with a view to modernising the gas pipelines network in Ukraine. The first pilot project is to modernise the Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod section, with an envelope of $308 million. The second project is to modernise the whole GTS of Ukraine, by replacing outdated compression systems and modernising underground storages that are located in the Western part of the country. We have already invested $100 millions on this. But we have a second priority, the diversification of our energy sources. That is why we are so keen on the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) project, in the Southern Corridor, and we suggest this pipeline be connected to Ukraine. Third priority is energy efficiency and energy savings projects.
AE: Are you worried about the impact of the European Commission inquiry targeting Gazprom on gas supplies to Ukraine and transit of gas to the EU this winter?
KY: First of all, the EU should rely on Ukraine as a stable and predictable transit country for the Russian gas to the EU - even more during winter time. In order to ensure predictability and stability of Russian gas supplies to the EU, we have already pumped into our underground storages about 20 billion cubic meters. We want to show the EU we are serious about our commitment to ensure the transit of gas. But I don't want to comment in this inquiry which was launched by DG Competition of the EC. Let's see the results.
AE: Ukraine recently asked for a review of its tariff line concessions at the WTO, based on GATT article 28. This move is criticised by WTO partners as a threat to the multilateral trade system and seen by the EU as jeopardising their FTA. Why such a move? Do you understand these concerns?
KY: This move was initialled by the Ukrainian business circle, whose complaints and demands cannot be ignored. We simply submitted these complaints to the WTO. We did not violate any rules. As you mentioned, there is a special article which gives us a right. The question whether we will succeed, this is another question. But I don't think that this move will jeopardise the WTO system and rules. In a constructive spirit, and within the framework of the WTO, we will work in Geneva to find an appropriate compromise. But I would not over-politicise this question. Because our FTA with the EU goes far beyond WTO regulations and standards.(CG/EH)
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