The majority of observers share the opinion that at the Ukrainian-Russian meeting in Crimea, held at the highest level, both parties hold their own grounds. President Viktor Yanukovych insisted on the '3+1' formula of cooperation with the Customs Union and offered to develop the cooperation at the sectoral level. "I proposed to start economic integration at the sectoral level. I believes it is good as a start," yanukovych said and added that Kyiv follows the activity of such formations as Customs Union and Common Economic Area.

In his turn, President of Russia Vladimir Putin was not slow to point out the gas issue, having informed he ruled out the revision of gas contracts with Ukraine. At the same time Putin diplomatically added that Gazprom and Naftogaz should study all possible options to improve the relations. "We know the position of our partner, and we respect it," he said.

Trying to analyze the development of the economic and political relations between the countries and to figure out the real results of the meeting, ForUm addressed the experts:

Yaroslav Zhalilo, executive director of "CASE Ukraine" social and economic research center:

- Our countries are interested in mutual development of business. The matter in question is the format of relations. Russia, of course, would prefer to see Ukraine as a part of the Customs Union. Kyiv in its turn insists on '3+1' format. And though Russia denies a possibility of such cooperation, this kind of cooperation already exists and functions. First of all, Ukraine already has contacts and agreements with the Customs Union. Secondly, Russia has ratified the agreement on free trade area within CIS. Thirdly, Moscow has ratified the WTO regulations and has become the full member of the organization. WTO imposes certain obligations and restrictions on Russia, and Ukraine will be able to hold talks with Russia basing on WTO norms.

In addition, I think Kyiv has a chance to persuade Russia into the revision of gas formula for Ukraine. Ukraine is no longer alone on this matter. A number of foreign enterprises, cooperating with Gazprom, start questioning the price policy of the gas supplies. Moreover, the policy of mutual concessions has proved its efficiency, and Ukraine can get cheaper gas in exchange for agreements, which may be beneficial for Russia.

Innokentiy Adyasov, political scientist (RF):

- Kyiv insists on sectoral integration with the Customs Union in those spheres of industry, which can give immediate positive results for Ukraine. At the same time Kyiv refuses to join the Customs Union and apply its norms.

It seems that benefits from the full integration are obvious, and both Ukrainian and Russian economics admit it. The Ukrainian institute of economy and projection has calculated that joining of the Customs Union will bring Ukraine $8.8-9 billion export growth in three years. In addition, Ukraine will get reduced price for oil and gas.

However, for the sake of justice, it's worth mentioning that the decline of the world prices for gas and oil somehow diminish the possible positive effect from Customs Union membership. Enemies of the Customs Union believe Ukraine's membership in the union will suspend the modernization of Ukrainian economy, as the Customs Union's Code does not provide for benefits for import of hi-tech equipment. They also argue that low prices for energy carriers will suspend the development of energy saving technologies in Ukraine, as owners of metallurgical complexes will no longer need to modernize the production lines and invest in energy saving (the majority of metallurgical complexes in Ukraine still use open-hearth furnaces, while in Russia this method is used by less than 10% of enterprises; the EU abandoned the open-hearth process 10 years ago).

Oleksandr Paskhaver, president of the Center of economic development:

- Yanukovych's offer to cooperate at sectoral level is possible, but it cannot be called a participation in the Customs Union. It's like to say 'let's have a little bit of common currency.' The word 'a little bit' conflicts with 'total'. As for the gas price discount, indeed some EU countries managed to get lower gas price. But these countries have more possibilities to influence the situation, while Ukraine's options are limited. As one of the possible variants, we can appeal to court, which may order the revision of 'Ukrainian' price.

Dmytro Marunich, director of the Institute of energy research:

- There are no and never have been any grounds to revise gas contracts with Russia. To get any concessions Ukraine has to offer something in return - for example full consortium on gas transportation system or integration into the Customs Union. These options are not on the table, hence Moscow makes no scruple to keep the status-quo.

One of the proofs Moscow has no intention to change the situation is Gazprom's advanced payment for transit in the amount of $2 billion.

Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist party of Ukraine:

- Discussions on this or that foreign policy must be based not on abstract speculations about European values or Slavic unity, but on concrete business plan and calculations taking into account the national interests, including interests of the working class of Ukraine.

Communists have nothing against the partnership with the EU, but choosing the foreign policy we must take into account not shallow slogans like visa-free regime, but the economic ingredients as well, the ones which determine whether Ukraine is an equal partner or a source of cheap labor forces, an equal partner or a market outlet. European market is closed for domestic producers, and those numerous restrictions will not be lifted in the nearest future.
Viktor Suslov, former minister of economy of Ukraine:

- The meeting of the presidents has become yet another lost opportunity to improve the relations between our countries. Yes, they signed the declaration on strategic partnership, and this declaration does not say anything about Ukraine's participation in the Customs Union or EuroAsian formation. But, it is economically advantageous for Ukraine to join the Customs Union rather than participate in the free trade area with the EU. But Kyiv will never go for it. President's declaration of the Eurointegration course in fact means multi-vector policy.

In addition, Russia again raised the question on ratification of the free trade are agreement within CIS. However, Ukraine informed it is still 'studying' the issue. It looks like this agreement is turning into yet another subject of political bargain.

Volodymyr Ohrysko, former foreign minister of Ukraine:

- The meeting in Crimea has brought zero results regarding the relations with Russia, especially in gas issue. The only positive moment is the session of the interstate commission. Specialists could sit and talk about further joint actions. At the same time Ukraine managed not to surrender its national interests and I am very glad about it.


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