(EU) EU/UKRAINE: Some member states using «pretexts» to undermine Ukraine’s European integration, regrets Ambassador Yelisieiev – «No free trade area without appropriate EU financial aid»
Brussels, 04/10/2010 (Agence Europe) – Some member states are over-egging Ukraine’s domestic political problems and some “sporadic” infringement of human rights to sabotage the country’s European integration process, says new Ukrainian Ambassador to the EU Konstiantyn Yelisieiev. “The current situation in Ukraine is over-dramatised by the EU member states. I have my own version: some sceptical member states are trying to use the current internal developments in Ukraine in order to suspend further cooperation between the EU and Ukraine. Why? Because in recent months, Ukraine, for the first time since 2005, started to deliver real results in terms of economic and social reforms and EU law alignment. Some member states are afraid that we are moving forward too quickly and that, sooner or later, Ukraine will ask for EU membership prospects and will apply for EU membership,” Yelisieiev said in an interview with EUROPE on 1 October. The former deputy foreign minister, who has just been appointed to represent his country in Brussels, refused to name the “sceptical member states” but called on the EU as a whole to show “patience and tolerance” towards his country, which is still economically and politically in a “transition phase”. Some NGOs have recently flagged up cases of breaches of human rights and a restriction of freedom of expression in Ukraine, particularly since the election of new President Viktor Yanukovich in February. Last week, Commissioner Stefan Füle warned Kiev that the EU would “not compromise” on respect for the rule of law and democratic principles (see EUROPE 10227). Yelisieiev admitted that there had been “some individual cases” of infringement of human rights, but stressed that it is “not a systemic problem” in Ukraine, “which is now politically stable”.
EU accession. The coming to power of pro-Russian President Yanukovich has not changed Ukraine’s European policy though Kiev is seeking to improve relations with Moscow, Yelisieiev said. Ukraine is part of the Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership; it is also negotiating an association agreement and a free trade area. The long-term strategic objective remains, however, accession. “EU integration is recognised not only as a foreign policy priority but also as a priority of state development and of the modernisation of the country,” he stated. Kiev, however, wants to be “pragmatic”, moving forward “step by step” and “not wanting to raise false expectations”. “We are not so naïve as to think that by tomorrow the EU will give us the green light for EU membership.” The next intermediate objective, then, is to obtain a “European perspective”. Kiev has tried to get this included in the preamble to the new association agreement but the EU has refused. “The EU has still not decided whether Ukraine is a simple partner, a strategic partner or maybe a future member state. From our side, we are ready to deliver but the EU is not yet ready to take such a strategic decision, maybe because they have to digest the last enlargement and the Balkans. We do not criticise it, we understand it. But, on the other hand, we need an EU perspective in order to better organise our reforms and to better explain to our citizens why they need to suffer. We need incentives,” Yelisieiev explained.
Association agreement, free trade area. Talks on the new association agreement and the free trade area (FTA) are moving forward well. “97% of the agreement is preliminary agreed. The only remaining part to be negotiated is the free trade area,” Yelisieiev said. Some sectoral problems remain to be resolved (agriculture, services, etc) but the greatest obstacle to the conclusion of negotiations is political and financial, the ambassador explained. Ukraine wants the EU to consider it as a possible future member state and, as such, to agree to help the Ukrainian authorities fund the huge cost involved in aligning its laws with the acquis communautaire – just as the EU does with applicant countries through its pre-accession aid. “If the EU wants us to take on board the very painful and costly obligations of the free trade area – such as the taking over of the EU acquis in the field of environmental protection which will cost billions of euro – then it should be supported by some kind of financial support mechanism as was the case for some states which are now part of the EU,” Yelisieiev said. The EU, then, should be thinking of providing money for this purpose in the next multi-annual budgetary framework (2014-2020), he opined. “For the time being, the EU is hesitating” about saying if it can go along that path or not, he said. Does this mean that Ukraine will only conclude the free trade area if it gets European financial assistance? “It’s self-evident and logical. It would not be serious to conclude the FTA without providing financial aid because the implementation would not be OK”, given the vast sums of money required. However, if all goes well, negotiations could be concluded “in the second part of next year”, the ambassador felt. (H.B./transl.rt)