On 21 March in Brussels the process of signing the Association Agreement between Ukraine and EU was launched: we have signed the political part of the Agreement.
Frankly speaking, I expected that the chosen formula would cause the ambiguous reaction. Different kinds of thoughts are being expressed. Some people consider that Ukraine has refused of the EU membership and buried its European choice. Others affirm that signing of the political part of the Agreement without economical part gives us nothing. Someone think that due to the way we have chosen, we will never sign the trade part of the Agreement. Some people point out that there were no celebrations during the signing ceremony.
Here is my response.
We’ve finally made the first important step. Its scope is as substantial as it is possible, taking into consideration the circumstances both in Ukraine and the EU. Three weeks ago the EU didn’t have any intention at all to sign anything with Ukraine before the presidential elections. However, as the result of intensive work, the compromise decision to sign the Agreement in two phases has been agreed between Ukraine and 28 EU member states. One integral Agreement – two signings.
What does it give us?
In course of the deepest social-political and economic crisis in the whole modern history of Ukraine which is accompanied by the military intervention from Russia, the EU both on institutional level and on the level of its member states has demonstrated its solidarity with Ukraine and aspiration for building further relations with our state on the political association basis.
This is the support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is closer cooperation in the sphere of Common Foreign and Security Policy. This is the declaration of Ukraine’s commitment to the strengthening of the rule of law and adherence to human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is the affirmation of the Ukraine’s intention to ratify the Charter of the International Criminal Court after introduction of certain amendments to the Constitution. Finally, this is formal confirmation of Ukraine’s civilizational choice in favor of the European democratic values. By the way, by signing the Agreement, the EU has taken responsibility for the stable democratic development of Ukraine.
Someone could say that this is not enough. But let’s not forget that the European Union is a complicated body. The decisions on relations with third countries are taken not by the majority of votes, but unanimously.
Some of our partners are concerned about internal instability in Ukraine. Some of them are sensitive to Russia’s reaction to the decisions taken by the EU regarding Ukraine. Some of them are under effects of the Russian propaganda. One has too complicated internal procedures that do not allow agreeing on a mandate needed to sign all parts of the Association Agreement just in three weeks. And someone is just indifferent to Ukraine.
It is a reality, for which we can criticize the EU for a long time, but doing so Ukraine will not come closer to the membership.
However, over the last weeks Ukraine de-facto made the EU to wake up and to enter into an extraordinary mode of work. It will just suffice to mention that during two weeks the European Council was convened twice with participation of the Prime Minister of Ukraine, taking into account that it was unprecedented to invite representatives of third countries to the EU summits in the post-Lisbon practice.
Yes, the Association Agreement is not perfect, but this document is hard won. It is a result of the super – complicated compromise.
In course of five years of negotiating process our team was insisting on including a clear-cut European perspective for Ukraine into the Agreement. However, among the EU Members there has been no consensus about this issue neither then nor now.
In my opinion, we are overestimating the fact of the presence of the European perspective in the Association Agreement. Any following summit of the European Union could provide it to Ukraine. Furthermore, the EU member-states have already hinted in their last Conclusions on Ukraine that the Association Agreement is not a final goal of the relation between Ukraine and the EU.
Although I use any opportunity to stress the importance and transforming power of the European perspective, but I believe that it is not logical to postpone signing of the Association Agreement waiting for a more favorable moment. Croatia is an ample example of it. This country signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement in 2001 and only two years later it received the European perspective together with other Western Balkans countries.
Of course, one could be resent inability of the European Union to recognize Ukraine’s European perspective. But we have to remember that the European integration first of all starts with the internal policy, systemic reforms and transformations. Qualitative reforms sooner or later will bring us to such a point when the issue of the European membership will become a formality.
Today we have a new responsible Government the program of which contains a number of provisions consonant with requirements of the Association Agreement. There are no obstacles to start fulfilling the Agreement before it is signed.
According to the common vision of the parties, the trade part of the Association Agreement should be signed after Presidential elections in Ukraine. Doubts as to whether Ukraine and the EU want to complete the signing of the Association Agreement, I think, are groundless.
Firstly, during this period the EU introduces a package of autonomous trade preferential measures for Ukraine, which essentially means the unilateral opening of EU markets for Ukraine in accordance with the provisions of the DCFTA part of the Association Agreement. The positive effect of opening the EU markets to Ukrainian economy is estimated at 500 million euros per year.
Secondly, we get time to stabilize the financial and economic situation in the country with the assistance of the EU and the IMF, to conduct comprehensive consultations with the EU on the implementation and risks of the DCFTA, to develop, in close cooperation with the EU, an effective national Program for implementation of the Association Agreement, as well as to establish a national mechanism of coordination of the respective work.
Thirdly, we get an opportunity, in interaction with the EU, to finally disprove the myths which remain in Ukrainian society about the alleged negative impact of the DCFTA on the Ukrainian economy. Suffice it to recall the myths regarding the need to replace the entire Ukrainian railway track due to its incompatibility with European standards, or the need to legalize gay marriages in Ukraine, disseminated despite the absence of common approach to these issues even within the EU itself?
In this regard, I would like to appeal to those looking for the hidden meaning in the decision on the separation of signing of the Association Agreement: we have to get rid of the habit of undue criticism for the sake of creating a sensation.
This solution is not ideal, but it is pragmatic. This is a bird in the hand. But not as an alternative to a crane in the sky, as a temporary compromise for few months. The guarantee that in the near future Ukraine will get her crane is the EU decision on unilateral application of the DCFTA, in fact, till the beginning of its full operation after the completion of signing of the Agreement.
In today's difficult circumstances, the one who criticizes this decision plays into the hands of those who want to discredit Ukraine's European choice.
I suggest just to believe that today Ukraine has become one step closer to her dream and with the new energy to continue working for its implementation.