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Ukraine - What lies ahead

External relations 13-03-2014 - 09:46 / Updated: 11-02-2015 - 15:44

Bordering Russia and the EU, Ukraine has wavered for a long time between closer ties with the east or the west. Last year the country was about to sign an association agreement with the EU. When political leaders pulled out, it led to months of protests, resulting in the government being replaced, Russian intervention in the Crimea and the crisis in the eastern part of the country. The signing of the association agreement during the September plenary marks a new chapter. What will be next? (Read more: Ukraine: towards closer ties with Europe)

While the conflict in Ukraine continues, the country and the EU ratified a bilateral association agreement on 16 September 2014. Read up on all the latest developments in Ukraine with the help of our timeline, from the Euromaidan movement to the historic vote in the two parliaments in September and the parliamentary elections in Ukraine in October. (Read more: Ukraine: timeline of events)

Ukraine should swiftly form a new government and launch reforms, MEPs told the country's leaders following the parliamentary elections on Sunday won by pro-European parties. The European Parliament was present with an observation mission to ensure the elections were run fairly and transparently. In a meeting with Ukraine's president and prime minister the following day, the MEPs vouched to do everything in the EP's power to help implement the recently ratified association agreement. (Read more: MEPs urge Ukraine leaders to swiftly form government and launch reforms)

“What happens in Ukraine concerns all Europeans, because we cannot stand by and watch idly while the founding principles of the international community are being violated,” said EP president Martin Schulz during a visit to Kiev on Friday. “We have agreed on rules for states to follow when dealing with each other. These rules apply to all.” During his two-day visit, Schulz met Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk as well as president Petro Poroshenko. (Read more: Schulz in Kiev: ”What happens in Ukraine concerns all Europeans”)

Ukraine has been making the headlines for months. What started as mass demonstrations escalated into violent clashes and finally the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia. "The EU should have reacted much earlier," said Paweł Kowal, the head of Parliament’s delegation to Ukraine. The Polish member of the ECR group discussed the situation in the troubled country during a chat with the Parliament’s Facebook fans on 9 April. (Read more: Ukraine: "If the EU’s reaction is weak, Putin will make another step")

EU member states have relaunched peace talks with Russia and Ukraine to prevent the situation in the country from deteriorating any further. On Monday the EP's foreign affairs committee discussed the situation with Alexey Pushkov, the chair of the Duma's international affairs committee. After the meeting, we talked to Othmar Karas, an Austrian member of the EPP group and chair of the EP delegation to the EU-Russia parliamentary cooperation committee, to find out his views. (Read more: Karas on Ukraine: "If talks have no effect, risk of military escalation will increase")

The European Parliament welcomes signs of hope in moves towards peace in Ukraine and in the newly-ratified EU-Ukraine association agreement, but worries about Russia’s real intentions in the undeclared "hybrid war" there. In a resolution adopted on Thursday, it urges the EU to stand up to Russia and step up support for EU farmers hit by its trade ban. (Read more: MEPs welcome signs of hope in Ukraine and urge the EU to stand up to Russia)

The signing of agreements is rarely accompanied by applause, shouting and the flashing of victory signs, but this one was years in the making and responsible for a major change in European affairs. Many MEPs were quick to show their joy when the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was ratified simultaneously by the Ukrainian and European Parliaments on Tuesday 16 September, the first time in the EU's history that such a vote took place at the same time in the EP. (Read more: Historic vote: EU–Ukraine agreement approved simultaneously in Strasbourg and Kiev)

About 98% of the customs duties that Ukrainian iron, steel, farm produce and machinery exporters pay at EU borders will be removed by a proposal backed by European Parliament on Thursday. This unilateral measure will boost Ukraine’s struggling economy by saving its manufacturers and exporters €487 million a year. (Read more: MEPs cut customs duties on imports from Ukraine)

It's not just good fences that make for good neighbours. Good relations are based on mutual interests and shared values, which is why the EU offers its neighbours a privileged relationship in exchange for economic and political reforms, including a commitment to values such as democracy and human rights. Find out more about the 16 countries that are part of the European Neighbourhood Policy by clicking on our map. (Read more: EU and its closest neighbours)

REF. : 20140304TST37506
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