The Ukraine-EU summits are an annual affair and the current high-profile meeting was the first “live” bilateral summit of the European Union and its country-partner that was held in Brussels since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the view of even members of the opposition and the mass media, the 22nd summit meeting of the European Union and Ukraine was more than a success. And this fact is confirmed by opinions expressed by the leaders of the European Union and the joint statement that followed the summit.
The sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to the strengthening of the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union on the basis of the Association Agreement. The European Union leaders confirmed once again their support of the European aspirations of the official Kyiv and approved its European choice. The joint statement reads, “We welcomed the results already achieved in the implementation of the Association Agreement and the success of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which has supported the increase of bilateral trade flows by about 65% following its application since January 2016, with the EU now Ukraine's largest trading partner”.
The leadership of the European Union noted the substantial progress made by Ukraine in its reform process. The European Union welcomed the launch of the land reform, the adoption of the banking resolution law and progress made with regard to decentralisation, the launch of the work of the High Anti-Corruption Court. There were critical remarks, too. For instance, Brussels emphasized the importance of accelerating and reinforcing reform efforts in implementing judicial reforms, the fight against corruption and de-oligarchisation.
The EU announced new programs to support agriculture, local small and medium-sized enterprises, civil society, transport, infrastructure, environment and climate action, as well as specific support for the east of Ukraine. A few agreements were signed at the summit. The European Union pledged to finance a number of Ukrainian programs to the sum of 60 million euroes.
A large portion of the joint statement was dedicated to Ukraine’s efforts to counteract Russian aggression. In the opinion of many political analysts, the European Union has not voiced such clear and strong disagreements with the Kremlin long ago. Besides, the European Union reiterated that it would never recognize the illegal annexation of the Crimea and would continue the sanction policy and apply other methods of pressure on the Russian Federation. The joint statement said in clear terms that Russia bears all responsibility for events in Donbas.
“We again called on Russia to immediately stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs, and we remain deeply concerned about the presence of Russian military equipment and personnel in the non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine … The EU recently renewed its economic sanctions on Russia, whose duration remains clearly linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements”, reads the joint statement.
Brussels condemned Moscow’s continuing measures entitling Ukrainian citizens of the areas currently not under the control of the government to apply for Russian citizenship in a simplified manner, in contradiction to the Minsk agreements.
The European Union pledged to support Ukraine in countering the spread of Russian disinformation. The joint statement particularly stressed that the Kremlin conducts disinformation campaigns against the European Union and Ukraine. The EU and Ukraine agreed to launch a cyber-dialogue. Today, the European Union has such a format with six countries. Ukraine will be the seventh.
European Union assured that nothing threatens the visa-free regime for the citizens of Ukraine. This assurance became an important result of the summit meeting. “We have received assurances that there are no threats to the visa-free regime and that it will be resumed after the pandemic”, stated Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a joint news conference with Charles Michel, President of the European Council. This position was reaffirmed by the joint statement.
Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement on renewing the Association Agreement. According to the joint statement, the sides look forward to further strengthening of the economic integration and regulatory convergence within the framework of the Association Agreement.
As informed sources say, the clause of the joint statement regarding the renewal of the Association Agreement caused a lot of heated debate between Ukrainian and European diplomats. And the debate lasted up to the last moment of the discussion. Eventually, the final variant of the joint statement has the phrase about a more deep economic integration upon which Ukraine insisted. The point is that the deeper economic integration can open free access for Ukrainian products to markets of the European Union member-countries. Today, Ukrainian goods are exported to the European Union with significant restrictions according to quotas established by Brussels.
The joint statement further says, “We welcomed the renewed engagement by the parties at the Normandy Summit in Paris last December, and stressed the importance of implementing the measures agreed on that occasion in view of the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides, underlining Russia's responsibility in this regard. We praised the constructive approach of Ukraine in the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group and called on Russia to reciprocate”.
Such approach to the topic is very important for the current Ukrainian leadership. While the government’s position regarding negotiations on Donbas is severely criticized in Ukraine, the European Union holds a different opinion on this subject. Thus, European politicians believe that by attracting Russia to negotiations, Ukraine limits the space where the Kremlin can act. By doing so, Ukraine makes it impossible for the Russian Federation to shift the responsibility to Kyiv.
The newspaper Voice of Ukraine