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Версія для друку 6 грудня 2010 року

More action plans little actual progress

More action plans little actual progress
Latest EU-Ukraine Summit fails to meet expectations but also avoids upsetting delicate regional balance
The late November EU-Ukraine summit failed to produce any major surprises or breakthroughs, but it also steered clear of any significant breach in relations as EU officials refrained from scolding Kyiv over its recent democracy backsliding, choosing instead to push ahead in the search for feasible targets and the strengthening of pragmatic ties. It is no surprise to see the Ukrainian political elite trying to present the results of the recent summit meeting as a win for Kyiv. Any opitimism following the summit is based on the signing of an Action Plan on the establishment of a visa free regime for short stay travel - a subject in which Ukrainian audiences take a keen practical interest. However, Ukraine’s leaders have failed to stress that the new Action Plan remains an ambiguous guide offering much the same ‘long term perspective’ which Brussels officials have presented to successive Kyiv governments.

No clear roadmap towards visa free travel

To asess the true value of the recent Ukraine-EU summit meetings it is enlightening to check what was expected from the event at the beginning of 2010. After his victory in the presidential elections President Yanukovych predicted that the summit would see the signing of an Association Agreement – a commitment earlier made in 2009 by President Yushchenko. Ukraine has long pushed for visa regime liberalization and President Yanukovych identified it as a strategic priority for bilateral relations, but instead of a road map including strict deadlines the recent summit produced a number of requests which will be evaluated by EU officials only once they have been implemented. Although this new agreement will be portrayed as a step in the right direction, Ukraine’s route to a visa-free regime remains ambiguous and essentially unquantifiable. The Action Plan urges Ukraine to make major improvements to its border control, migration and asylum policies, while also calling on the state to implement tighter security around travel documents to clamp down on forgeries. After the summit President Yanukovych stated that Ukraine would fulfill all the requirements of the Action Plan in 2011, perhaps even within the first half of the year. Neither Herman Van Rompuy nor Jose Manuel Barroso commented on this promise, with the continent’s two leading Eurocrats merely smiling in return. Technically it is possible to meet all the requests made by the EU within a short space of time, but Brussels officials have had enough experience of dealings with Kyiv to know that the Ukrainian elite does not always operate according to schedule.

Brussels balancing act

The modest results produced by this year’s bilateral summit are being seen as a positive in pro-European circles within Ukraine, largely as they indicate a willingness in Brussels to continue developing Ukrainian relations despite concern over the new Kyiv government’s stance on both democracy and on the geopolitical balance in the region. In reality the 2010 EU-Ukraine summit was a major policy challenge for Brussels. European diplomats and officials were being pushed hard by civil society organizations to be strict with Ukraine and demand democracy and media freedoms. European decision makers, meanwhile, had to take into account not only the sanctity of democratic values but also possible consequences for regional politics of any cooling off in relations with Kyiv. For all its instability and questionable democracy, Ukraine remains a huge country flanking the eastern borders of the EU. It holds the key to the creation of a stable and predictable neighbourhood environment. For many Brussels decision makers the key question ahead of this year’s bilateral summit was which policy steps to take in order to guide Ukraine towards democracy and not to push it further into Russia’s embrace. Ahead of the summit it was already clear that the EU would not be taking any radical steps regarding Ukraine when the European Parliament decided to postpone a vote on a resolution condemning the recent Ukrainian local elections. The debates surrounding the resolution were hard-fought affairs, with two major EU Parliamentary groupings doing battle as Ukraine’s rough and tumble political pantomime spilled over onto the European stage. The European People’s Party, which Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko belongs to, led calls pushing for a harsh resolution, but this was resisted by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats – a grouping which President Yanukovych’s Party of Regions has recently signed a cooperation agreement. The debate marked the high water mark to date of Ukrainian lobbying in Brussels, with both sides working hard to get their message across behind the scenes. In the past Ukraine’s democratic opposition forces had enjoyed a virtual monopoly of political sympathies in Brussels but this recent confrontation signalled an end to the days when Orange representatives could expect to find their version of Ukrainian reality go unchallenged in EU circles. Instead, we now witnessed the interests of both the Ukrainian authorities and the country’s political opposition being represented by rival MEPs: MPs of the European Popular Party Elmar Brok and Michael Galler appeared in a number of publications actively promoting an immediate reaction to Ukraine’s flawed October 31 local elections. Meanwhile, the deputy president of EU’s Socialist grouping Adrian Severin was busy defending the position of Party of Regions leader President Yanukovych, in particular writing an op-ed for the EU Observer which stated: “it is almost shocking to see how some EPP Members of the European Parliament uncritically take on board the political slogans from the Ukrainian opposition, thus importing the Ukrainian mud-slinging into the European political arena instead of trying to establish democratic political cohesion in Ukraine”.
As a result of these tough political debates, the EU has apparently decided not to take any radical steps regarding Ukraine and to continue dialogue in the usual manner: promising long term progress and establishing short term indicators for Ukrainian development. Based on the summit there now appear to be four key areas which will domninate short term EU-Ukraine relations. It will largely be the pace of development in these areas which dictates the form and speed of broader integration. These key areas are Democracy, Reforms and Trade, Energy and Regional Security.  

Democracy remains on the EU agenda

In the second half of 2010 it became increasingly evident that pressure on the media and censorship was on the rise once more in Ukraine. Meanwhile, recent local elections fell far short of European standards. As a result of these concerns democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights appeared at the top of list of challenges identified by President Herman Van Rompuy following the EU-Ukraine Summit. For once EU officials actually went beyond mere declarations and cited that any future Association Agreement would have both economic and political aspects. In other words, progress in concluding an AA will depend on the continuing health of democracy in Ukraine as well as on FTA negotiations. “Respect for these principles is fundamental to Ukraine’s future development as a competitive, dynamic and innovative society. The pace and depth of rapprochement with the EU is closely associated with this,” President Rompuy outlined. 

Reforms and trade

No Free Trade deal was announced at this year’s summit but both sides expressed confidence that the final document will be ready for signing in 2011. The EU actually praised Ukraine’s current government for its ability to implement reforms in the economic field. At the top of the agenda, from the EU point of view, are legislation amendments combating corruption and strengthening the business and investment climate. The main concern of European officials is the practice of amending laws already approved by the EU, or voting counterproductive amendments once a law corresponding with EU standards has already been adopted. The Public Procurement Law was cited as an example of this practice. EU diplomats claim they are trying to explain to their Ukrainian colleagues that the key to progress is not just the adoption of new legislation but the adoption of legislation corresponding with international standards and best practices.

Energy issues

Probably the most significant progress made in EU-Ukraine relations in the past eighteen months involved bilateral ties in the energy sector. In 2009 Ukraine signed a protocol of accession to the European Energy Community – a move which came following the adoption of a law governing the country’s natural gas market. Though there remains much to do in order to make the Ukrainian energy sector transparent, competitive and sustainable, it remains one of the sectors where the progress achieved in 2009 remains feasible. In 2011 Ukraine will continue selling the idea of involving the EU in the modernization of Ukraine’s gas transit system, as well as developing a Ukrainian pipeline alternative to the costly South Stream option. As if to illustrate the point, immediately after this year’s EU-Ukraine summit a trilateral meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers and the European commissioner for energy was held in Brussels.

Regional Security

Another important dimension of Ukraine-EU cooperation is regional security, with a particular focus on Transnistria conflict settlement. In 2009 the EU revitalized its efforts to resolve the conflict while ensuring the territorial integrity of Moldova. Ukraine is one of the key partners in the 5 + 2 Transnistria settlement format. 2011 may present opportunities for the re-start of formal negotiations, and the EU will count on Ukraine’s active support. 2011 will be the year of Hungarian and Polish EU presidencies. Poland’s foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski has already announced a greater emphasis on flagship initiatives within the Eastern Partnership initiative, presenting Ukraine with another opportunity to move closer to the EU.
Джерело: Business Ukraine, Nataliya Novakova

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Коментарі експертів

28 грудня 2010 року
Фесенко Володимир В'ячеславович:
Володимир Фесенко пояснив, чому насправді він пішов з Інституту Горшеніна
14 грудня 2010 року
Фесенко Володимир В'ячеславович:
Украинским СМИ не хватает позиции
13 грудня 2010 року
Фесенко Володимир В'ячеславович:
Почему Азарова не отправили в отставку?
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