EU-Ukraine: still friends? Although the situation was unclear at the end of last year, both sides reconfirmed their willingness to pursue closer ties at the 16th EU-Ukraine summit on 25 February. However, before Ukraine is able to sign an association agreement with the EU this year, it has to show progress by May in several areas, especially election law and its justice system.
The summit in Brussels was attended by Council president Herman Van Rompuy, Commission president José Manuel Barroso and Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. It had originally been planned for autumn 2012, but was postponed because of the irregularities during the parliamentary elections in Ukraine last October and the political situation.
Paweł Kowal, a Polish member of the ECR group and chair of the delegation to the EU-Ukraine parliamentary cooperation committee, commented: "Both Kyiv and Brussels expressed once again their commitment to sign the association agreement as soon as tangible progress is demonstrated by Ukraine."
The summit debates focused on three main areas:selective justice, shortcomings during the last parliamentary elections and reforms set out in the association agenda. Mr Kowal said the imprisonment of opposition politicians Julia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko is still the most serious problem to be solved. President Yanukovych suggested recently that it would be possible to free Mr Lutsenko, but there have been no concrete developments. Regarding the recent elections, Mr Kowal said that as Ukraine is now heading the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), it has the opportunity to follow up on the recommendations made by international observers.
The association agreement, which would include a deep and comprehensive free trade area, could possibly be signed by November 2013. Mr Kowal stressed the agreement would be beneficial for both sides. "Almost 90% of Ukrainian law will be adapted to European standards, which will make trade between the EU and Ukraine much easier. The EU will get a new market for its products and Ukrainians will be able to travel to EU without visas." He added it was now up to president Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government to make progress on the recommendations by the Council.