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Ukraine and the European Union did not sign the Association Agreement at the summit of "Eastern Partnership".
However, as President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych stated at the plenary session of the summit, European choice remained Ukraine's strategic direction of civilization development, of strengthening the country’s role and place in today's competitive world.
According to the President, a forced pause in the process of concluding of the Association Agreement with the European Union does not mean the end of conduct of the European integration reforms in Ukraine.
The President stressed that the Association Agreement with the EU was a detailed plan for the comprehensive modernization of Ukraine in accordance with the European values and standards.
He also confirmed the intention of Ukraine to sign the Agreement in the near future.
Yanukovych noted that Ukraine should prepare not only for timely implementation of the Association Agreement , but also for minimization of the negative effects of the initial period, which would be certainly felt by the most vulnerable segments of Ukrainians.
Yanukovych also proposed European politicians to hold Ukraine-EU-Russia trilateral talks.
A day earlier, speaking in the business forum, held within the summit of the "Eastern Partnership", first vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Serhiy Arbuzov stressed that Ukraine remained committed to the European integration course. "There is no turn in the policy of Ukraine. Ukraine needs Europe and European course," he said.
In turn, representatives of the European Union noted that the EU’s doors remained open for Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the decision to take a step forward depended on Ukraine.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton stressed that Ukraine should have decided for itself when the Association Agreement would be signed. "I hope Ukraine’s European progress will be as fast as possible," she said.
The final declaration "Eastern Partnership : the way ahead", adopted at the end of the Vilnius summit, notes that the parties have taken each other's positions into account, and remain committed to the obligation to sign the Association Agreement.
ForUm asks politicians and experts to express their opinion about further prospects of Ukraine:
Oleksandr Okhrymenko, economics expert, president of the Ukrainian Analytical Center:
– I have repeatedly said that signing of the Agreement itself does not mean that everyone wakes up in Europe the next morning. Everyone somehow has forgotten that 10 years of transition period are assumed. It is a purely technical document, which should be analyzed by experts. In addition, it’s not a bid to join the European Union. Besides, we can do many of the steps, without formal signing of the agreement with the EU.
Let me remind you, Ukraine already has free trade agreements. Ukraine concluded FTA agreement with the CIS. Another FTA agreement is expected to be signed with Turkey. Negotiations are conducted with China as well.
One more thing. Today the president of Lithuania leaked a word, asking why we do not want to sign. She said that everything was wonderful in the Association signatory countries in 15 years after signing. The question arises: who will support us in trade war with Russia for 15 years? We cannot start a trade war with Russia. And I cannot even imagine how a trade war with Russia can be conducted for 15 years! Another point. Imagine that Russia introduces visa. What will happen with the Ukrainians working in the Russian Federation? So we have to maneuver, search for a compromise. We cannot remove the Russian Federation (from the trade relations - Ed.), even if we really want to.
In future, it would be very difficult to find a common language with the EU and the Russian Federation without holding trilateral talks. It is very wrong to assume that we have to choose one side. After all, we have already chosen. We have chosen Ukraine. And everything is going to be fine, both with the FTA with Europe and Russia.
Volodymyr Lapa, ecomonics expert, director general of the Ukrainian Agrarian Business Club:
– Chances of signing still remain, as it’s a postponement, not cancellation. Ukraine is trying to create the same mode like it already has with the CIS countries. We are not talking about becoming the EU member and getting unemployment, etc. We expect signing of the Association Agreement, which component is a free trade area with the EU.
We have the right to trade freely with the CIS countries, and we want to trade freely with the EU as well. It’s the right of every sovereign state. EU has free trade regime with many economic blocs and formations. The option of choice between is incorrect in this situation. Yes, we share the concerns of our Russian colleagues about theoretical leakage to the Customs Union market. However, for some reason, we do not hear similar accusations from the European countries of that, for example, technical equipment, 40 % consisting of Russian components could be exported to the EU FTA. So I do not quite understand why is the Russian Federation afraid? These fears are exaggerated. Even if they come true, nothing prevents immediate response within the WTO and the CIS agreements.
However, we can understand the government’s position, which faced quite a difficult choice. After all, our export of dairy products depends on the Russian market by 80%. A similar situation is observed with meat products. There is also confectionery industry, production of juices, fruits and vegetables that are exported to countries of the Customs Union in considerable quantities. So, there is a certain risk for agricultural producers.
Business understands these risks. And it also understands the necessity to diversify markets and minimize the risks. Accordingly, there is no alternative to signing of the Association and the FTA.
Vadym Karasiov, director of the Institute of Global Strategies:
– It is not the end, it is not the start, it is a pause to prepare and have the proper context to the conditions of the Association and the FTA with the EU. We should benefit from the Association and the FTA, have serious integration bonus, not to face economic threats and risks, not to lose economic and industrial potential.
A slight pause is necessary to prepare. We need clarification, joint work with the European partners to look again at the conditions of implementation.
European integration continues, the Association is put off until 2014. The Association Agreement could be signed at one of the next EU-Ukraine summits, either in spring 2014 or the second half of the year, taking into account the preparatory work within the EU-Russia-Ukraine multilateral or EU-Ukraine bilateral negotiations. No one refuses to sign. Everything is just postponed.
Andreas Umland, German political scientist:
- The agreement is most likely to be signed the next year.
Much now depends on Russia’s decisions. A way should be found to avoid sanctions on part of the Russian Federation.
Ihor Popov, director of the “Politics” analytical center:
– According to official statements, the European prospect still remains. Europe, as well as USA, believes in European prospect of Ukraine.
Chances grow as a group of “European pragmatics” is working in the Ukraine’s government. The current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov focuses on relations with the Russian Federation. However, the visit of the first vice-premier of Ukraine Serhiy Arbuzov to Europe was a landmark. He announced his personal choice before the Western colleagues, stating that there is no turn in the Ukraine’s policy of European integration.
This is a time delay. The agreement is unlikely to be signed at the next EU-Ukraine summit. At least a year is needed.
As for mass rallies in Ukraine, people should be thanked for their position. I also would like to warn against possible provocations, which could come even from the third party.
Kost Bondarenko, chairman of board of the Institute of Ukrainian politics:
– The EU-Georgia and the EU-Moldova association agreements were initialed at the summit. This is a step, as already three states, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, have initialed agreements with the EU. Now, the agreements just need to be signed.
One more thing is that a clear set of targets, benchmarks for Ukraine and the EU countries were identified. We negotiate, solve economic issues, and then sign the Agreement.
The third important point is scheduling the next date when the agreement could be signed. This is February 2014. We have three months to correct all the errors.
We should continue working. And then there will be result – the Agreement will be signed.
The end of the street protests depends on the ability to explain people that failure to sign the agreement today does not mean a sharp turn. Maidan has no plan "B" or "C". Different, often contradictory statements sound. Some say that people should stop protest starting from Monday, others call to storm government agencies. However, all are confused. Any options are possible.
Yevhen Kopatko, sociologist:
– Before talking about the prospects of Ukraine in Europe, we should know the prospects inside the country, what is happening in the economy, social sphere, and politics. I believe that the unsigned agreement is not a tragedy or disaster. It was given too great symbolic significance. I think it was wrong. After all, there were more emotions than politics or economics.
Pause for Ukraine and the EU will be a very important moment for developing a format of possible relationships, within which there would be a mutual understanding and respect for views of each other. Then it won’t be a one-sided game. If we put aside all political trumpery, we’ll see that even Europeans realize that situation in Ukraine is very difficult.
In addition, we should draw a lesson from street rallies, which pose a big problem for the country. Emotions are a good thing, but the issues should be jointly solved by power, opposition and experts. Emotions end very quickly. Euphoria can turn into frustration. Remember the year 2004. Emotions in such matters lead to nowhere. Emotions should give way to common sense.