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Ukraine - What lies ahead

Delegations / External relations 03-03-2016 - 19:23
 
 

Bordering Russia and the EU, Ukraine has wavered for a long time between closer ties with the east or the west. With the free trade component of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement entering into force on 1 January 2016, the country took a significant step on its long road to European integration. However two years after the Euromaidan revolution, Russia's annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine, the country's 45 million people still face an uncertain future. (Read more: Ukraine: towards closer ties with Europe)

Just over two years after the Euromaidan mass protests resulted in removing President Viktor Yanukovych from power, Ukraine is still at a crossroads between war and peace, between corruption and reform. The entry into force of the EU-Ukraine free trade area on 1 January 2016 was a milestone in relations between the two entities. Our timeline tracks the main events of the past two years, from the annexation of Crimea to the Minsk II peace agreement and more. (Read more: Ukraine: timeline of events)

"Ukraine's needs have not diminished but because of the urgency and weight of other events it has found itself displaced for public attention." So says former EP President Pat Cox in an interview ahead of Ukraine Week, a conference on good parliamentary practice and law-making at the European Parliament on 29 February-2 March. Attended by a 40-strong delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians, the week opens with the presentation of a report on capacity-building by Cox. (Read more: Pat Cox: "There is still an enormous appetite for deeper transformation in Ukraine")

EU plans to lend Ukraine €1.8 billion to help plug its short-term balance of payments gap were approved by MEPs on Wednesday. The EU will borrow the money externally and lend it on to Ukraine with the same interest rate. The disbursement will be tied to Ukraine pledging structural reforms to tackle problems that contributed to the current crisis. (Read more: European Parliament approves €1.8 billion EU loan to Ukraine)

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)

The European Parliament gave its consent to the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), on Tuesday in Strasbourg. At the same time, the Agreement was also ratified by the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev. The deal will establish a deep political association and economic integration between the EU and Ukraine and provide for mutual free market access. (Read more: European Parliament ratifies EU-Ukraine Association Agreement)

“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”)

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)

The dramatic events in Ukraine that led to more than 80 deaths and President Viktor Yanukovych being removed from power changed the country and the EU should step in now to support democracy, MEPs from across the political spectrum said in a plenary debate on its future on 26 February. Speakers paid tribute to Ukrainians' courage and underlined that they should be able to freely determine the future of their own country. (Read more: MEPs urge support for democracy in Ukraine)

The EU should not give up on Ukrainians protesting against their government’s decision to postpone closer links with the Union, according to the majority of MEPs during a debate on the country’s situation. However, some MEPs called Ukraine’s decision to not sign an association agreement a failure of the EU’s foreign policy and a win for Russia. (Read more: Debate: MEPs call on EU to support Ukrainians demonstrating for a European future)

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)

"Our parliament should become a leading democratic, legislative and European institution in Ukraine," said Volodymyr Groysman, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, at the Ukraine Week conference at the European Parliament in Brussels on 29 February-2 March. Participants discussed how to improve the quality of the legislative process in Ukraine’s parliament, as well as its efficiency and transparency in managing European affairs. Watch our video for a recap. (Read more: Ukraine Week: "An unprecedented exercise of close cooperation and in-depth joint reflection")

EU-Russia relations were discussed today during the plenary session in Strasbourg and tomorrow MEPs will vote on a report on the state of EU-Russia relations. We spoke to Lithuanian EPP member Gabrielius Landsbergis, who wrote the report, about the impact of sanctions against Russia and the country's recent entry ban on EU politicians and officials. (Read more: Gabrielius Landsbergis: "Sanctions against Russia are already bearing fruit")

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)

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")

Russia must immediately withdraw all its military forces from Ukrainian territory, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Thursday. They condemn its "act of aggression in invading Crimea" as a breach of international law, declare Crimea’s plans to hold a referendum on its accession to Russia to be illegal and warn that Russia’s actions pose a threat to the security of the EU. (Read more: European Parliament calls on Russia to withdraw military forces from Ukraine)

What should be done to resolve the crisis in Ukraine? Political leaders from around Europe and the world have had crisis talks for days in order to find the best way to deal with Russia over the divided country and prevent further escalation. We discussed the situation with Knut Fleckenstein (S&D, Germany), chair of the delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and Paweł Kowal (ECR, Poland), chair of the delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. (Read more: Ukraine: the way out of the crisis)

The Vilnius summit of the Eastern Partnership on 28-29 November could prove to be a milestone for EU-Ukraine relations, as both sides expect to sign the association agreement that would bring the country closer to the EU. Today EP envoys Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski present their report on the Tymoshenko case during the Conference of Presidents. We talked about it with Paweł Kowal, a Polish member of the ECR group who is the chair of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. (Read more: Kowal: "In 10-15 years it will be natural to talk about Ukraine’s accession")

REF. : 20140304TST37506
 
 
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