Without prejudice to a future political decision on possible signature, the Commission adopted yesterday the proposals for Council Decisions on the signing and provisional application as well as the conclusion of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which will be transmitted to the Council for further processing. The Commission accompanied the two proposals with a political statement.
With today’s decision, the EU is taking a necessary preparatory step in order to be technically ready for the possible signing of the Association Agreement (including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area – DCFTA) at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in six months from now. The EU has underlined that it will only sign if Ukraine creates the necessary political circumstances.
Today’s adoption of the two proposals for Council Decision technically enables the EU to move ahead with the required preparatory arrangements without pre-empting any decision: the signing of the Agreement remains conditional on determined action and tangible progress by Ukrainian authorities on the benchmarks set out by the Council conclusions of 10 December 2012 and to be assessed by the Member States before the Vilnius Summit later this year(follow-up actions from the October 2012 parliamentary elections; addressing the cases of selective justice and preventing any recurrence and moving ahead with the jointly-agreed reform agenda).
Before authorising signature, Member States must be allowed sufficient time for their internal procedures, including consulting of national parliaments. Taken into consideration the length and complexity of the Agreement, this process will take a minimum of six months.
The Agreement is the first of a new generation of Association Agreements between the European Union and the Eastern Partnership countries. It aims at deepening political and economic relations between Ukraine and the EU, as well as at improving Ukraine’s access to the EU Internal Market, including through a DCFTA, thus providing better conditions for economic cooperation between the EU and Ukraine.
The Association Agreement negotiations were finalised in 2011 and on 30 March 2012, the chief negotiators of the European Union and Ukraine initialled the text of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
On 10 December 2012, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted Conclusions on Ukraine, expressing the EU’s commitment to the signing of the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA, as soon as the Ukrainian authorities demonstrate determined action and tangible progress in the three areas (elections, selective justice, and overall reforms as set out in the Association Agenda), possibly by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013. It also stressed the necessity for Ukraine to improve its business climate. The Council also indicated that the signature of the Agreement could be accompanied by opening for provisional application of parts of the Agreement.
As requested by the 10 December 2012 Council Conclusions, the High Representative and the Commission are monitoring and keeping the Council informed about progress achieved by Ukraine in meeting the requirements set out by the Council conclusions, including in the context of the preparations of the June 2013 EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council and November 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
Negotiations of this comprehensive and ambitious Agreement between the EU and Ukraine were launched in March 2007. In February 2008, following the decision of accession of Ukraine to the WTO, the EU and Ukraine launched negotiations on the DCFTA, as a core element of the Association Agreement.
The Association Agreement aims to accelerate the deepening of political and economic relations between Ukraine and the EU, as well as Ukraine’s gradual access to the EU Internal Market including by setting up the DCFTA. It is a concrete way to exploit the dynamics in EU-Ukraine relations, focusing on support to core reforms, on economic recovery and growth, governance and sector co-operation. The Agreement also constitutes a reform agenda for Ukraine, based on a comprehensive programme of approximation of Ukraine’s legislation to many EU norms, around which all partners of Ukraine can align themselves and focus their assistance. EU assistance to Ukraine is linked with the reform agenda as it emerges from the Agreement. The Comprehensive Institutional Building Programme is particularly important in this regard.