28 Nov 2013

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule: We remain committed to Ukraine‘s political association and economic integration with EU

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule has given an interview with Interfax ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit Vilnius in which he speaks about the Ukraine-EU association agreement and the agenda of the upcoming summit.

Question: Ukraine has decided to suspend the process of preparation for signature of the Association Agreement with the EU. Has this decision taken you by surprise? In your opinion, what are the reasons for this decision?

Answer: The EU learned last week that the government of Ukraine had decided to suspend preparations for signature of the Association Agreement/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (AA/DCFTA) with Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian government their decision was motivated by ‘national security considerations and by the wish to renew the trade lost over the last months with the Russian Federation and other members of the CIS and Customs Union‘. It is thus clear that this step is a response to a series of measures taken by the Russian Federation which have severely reduced bilateral trade and have inflicted economic hardship on many Ukrainian citizens.

Q.: Many media see Kiev‘s decision as a personal victory of the Russia‘s leadership. In your opinion, could this decision have a negative impact on the EU-Russia relations in general? Wouldn‘t it become a new stumbling block?

A.: Our relations with the neighbors are not a competition and they are not designed to be at the expense of Russia. Russia is a strategic partner for the EU and we want to use all the potential of this partnership. It would be illogical to ask our partners not to do the same. Actually we are encouraging our neighbors to develop their traditional ties with Russia. We see our relations with the Eastern Neighbors as a win-win situation, also for Russia. What we want to achieve with the Eastern Neighbors, is political association and economic integration, helping them to modernize their societies, increase democratic and economic standards for their people. And fr om this also Russia could profit. The Association Agreement is not a choice to make between Russia or the EU, nor is anybody asking Ukraine to renounce its traditional free trade agreement with Russia. It is entirely normal practice for companies to produce goods for different markets. Take the automobile industry for example where standards differ between the U.S., European Union and Japan and where producers sell variants on all three markets.

Q.: Some experts believe that Ukraine has taken a tactic decision but not a final one. Do you agree with such an interpretation? Can we assume that the door is still open for Ukraine and the negotiations on the Association Agreement will continue in the future? If yes, when can we expect the re-start of the negotiations?

A.: As we understand it, the Ukrainian government decided to suspend preparations for signature of the AA/DCFTA; in other words, Ukraine has asked for a pause in the process. We remain committed to Ukraine‘s political association and economic integration with the EU, and the possibility to sign the AA/DCFTA remains on the table.

Q.: Is the EU ready to show some flexibility in order to sign the Association Agreement, in particular to review its requirement for Tymoshenko‘s treatment abroad?

A.: The Ukrainian government cited national security and commercial concerns as its rationale for suspending the process. It did not mention the EU‘s benchmarks, on which important progress has been achieved. As far as the EU is concerned, we said clearly, that one of the conditions to sign the AA is to address the issue of selective justice, redress its effects and prevent the reoccurrence. Doing so will require the political will of the Ukrainian leadership and determined action and tangible progress on the conditions set out by the EU in December 2012. And it will be up to the EU Member States to make that assessment.

Q.: Victor Suslov, Ukraine‘s representative to the Eurasian Economic Committee, said recently that the EU had failed to hear a number of Ukraine‘s high-level statements about the need for financial support, about too high costs of compulsory transition to the EU‘s regulations and standards ($100 bln– $500 bln). Is Brussels ready to listen to Kyiv in this regard so that the signature of the Association Agreement can take place at the end?

A.: The claims about the alleged costs of the impact of the AA on the Ukrainian economy are neither proportionate nor credible, it is not clear what, if any, data back them up. What is a clear fact is the following - the EU is the biggest international provider of technical and financial assistance to Ukraine. Since its independence in 1991, the EU has supported Ukraine