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More than two years ago, the European Union launched the symbolic "Euro-competition" between Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova towards a brighter European future. A variety of circumstances, different potentials of these countries, make it difficult to determine the favorite. We will concentrate our attention on the most important issues of European integration - the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU and the implementation of comprehensive free trade regime.
June 27, 2014 Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova simultaneously signed the Association Agreement with the EU. However, its temporary use began in each country differently. In Ukraine, for example, it happened November 1, 2014, in Georgia and Moldova - 1 September of the same year.
Ukraine continued to lag, because Moldovans and Georgians were more fortunate, because they have got a provisional application of Section IV, concerning the introduction of free trade zone. Ukraine, burdened by additional costs of the military campaign in the east under Russian pressure, within the tripartite negotiations of the EU-Ukraine-Russia has lost that right because of postponing the FTA to January 1, 2016. Although, in compensation, the EU continued regime of autonomous preferences for Ukraine to December 31, 2015, what enabled abolishing customs duties on certain types of Ukrainian goods to the EU.
Aligning the situation, was possible only by achieving simultaneous ratification of these agreements by the national parliaments of the Member States, to the agreement for the three parts came in full force. But then again, Ukraine has remained an outsider since July 1. The European Commission has announced the full entry into force of the Association Agreement with the EU to Georgia and Moldova. Ukraine could not achieve the same result because of the Netherlands notorious referendum.
That Ukraine has today pseudo-agreement, which has not yet fully entered into force and is only temporary. This issue, of course, is more political in nature than economic.
Now, according to the established rules on visa-free regime, citizens of Moldova can be in the EU countries only if they have biometric passports. They can spend in the EU 90 days (for six months). Those who cross the EU border must have medical insurance, as well as currency at the rate of 50 euros for each day of stay. In addition, at the border they have to specify the purpose of the trip and the destination. If the migration service set in the EU infringement, the Moldovan citizens is deported or fined up to $ 3 thousand euro.
Visa-free regime topic remains perhaps the most important issue in assessing the public authorities' actions in the European direction. With this problem sustained permanent debate that usually end with sharp criticism of the Ukrainian authorities. But Ukrainians are tired of empty promises.
Hope for a speedy resolution of this issue loomed on the horizon in early September that prompted Poroshenko to such statements. September 7, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament examined and praised the liberalization of the EU visa regime for Georgians and Ukrainians. But last week it became clear that not everything is smoothly.
"EU ambassadors will not solve the issue of visa liberalization for Georgia. The negotiations in the Council of the EU on visas have "stuck" and continue to this day, because the situation is quite difficult," said one of the journalists from Radio Liberty.
Now visa-free regime has different terms. The issue of visa liberalization for Ukraine will be offered in one package with Georgia and Kosovo at the Council of Justice and Home Affairs EU October 11th 2016.
Now, the very different timetable of visa-free regime is under consideration. As stated by Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Olena Zerkal in the air of "Channel 5", approval of the visa liberalization for Ukraine comes in one package with Georgia and Kosovo at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council on October 11.
The same forecasts in August made Rikard Jozviak. On his page on Twitter, "Radio Liberty" correspondent in Brussels reported that "the EU diplomats expect for the final decision of the European Parliament and Council of the EU on visa liberalization for Georgia and Ukraine in October, with direct introduction of visa-free regime from January 1, 2017."
However, TASS, referring to a reliable diplomatic source in one of the member countries’ missions in Brussels, argues the opposite. According to the source, there is a low probability of "practical solutions" regarding Ukraine in October, as "a number of problems remain."
"The issue of visa-free regime for Ukraine, same as for Georgia, Kosovo, and Turkey, will be raised at the meeting of interior ministers in Luxembourg on October 13-14. Unfortunately, in Ukraine a number of problems still remain," notes the source. Among these problems, "slow progress in fighting corruption" and "rapid growth in the number of violations of the EU immigration and labor laws by the citizens of Ukraine" during the last two years are listed. "I do not expect adoption of practical decisions in October ," continued the diplomat. "Today, the EU is developing a mechanism for suspending the visa-free regime in the event of abuse by third countries. I think that the new visa-free solutions will actually be taken only after development of the mechanism."
Whose forecast is correct, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council’s meeting on October will show. We just have to wait for our expectations to be fulfilled in a month.
But there is another, perhaps the most difficult and important component of the European integration – process of formation of a deep and comprehensive free trade area, because association will lose its original meaning without the liberalization of economic relations from both sides.
The two-thirds of articles of Association Agreement are dedicated to the issue of FTA, touching the wide range of issues: reduction and elimination of tariffs applicable to goods parties; liberalization of access for services market; and making Ukrainian business rules and regulations fit to the European law in order to create mutual non-discriminatory treatment of companies, goods , and services in Ukraine and the EU.
According to the data of State Statistics Service Ukraine to date (as of 26.07.2016 g.) in January-June this year, total trade turnover of goods between Ukraine and the EU amounted to 14 billion 188.4 million dollars. USA, which is 4.6% more than the figure for the period January-June last year.
The volume of exports to EU countries in January-June 2016 amounted to 6 billion 516.8 million dollars. That is by 6.7% more than exports in the same period 2015. Imports of goods from EU countries amounted to 7 billion 671.5 million dollars. USA, which is 2.8% more than the figure for the period January-June 2015.
Thus, we can see the trend of gradual increase in bilateral trade between Ukraine and the EU.
Georgia’s trade with EU countries in the first quarter of this year increased by 11% in comparison with the same period of the last year and made 712 million dollars. USA. However, this growth was due to one-time import of medicines from Ireland.
The main European partners of Moldova is Romania (23.8%), Italy (10%), UK (6.5%), Germany (6.5%), France (2.5%) and Poland (3.3%).
Thus, despite all the difficulties with which Ukraine faced during its path to European integration, the trade shows a positive result, maintaining, unlike their Georgian and Moldovan colleagues, the positive trend of gradual increase in bilateral trade with EU.
In terms of European integration, Ukraine lags behind Moldova and is at the same level with Georgia. But Ukraine's potential far exceeds the capabilities of both countries. International situation that forces the EU to close is not playing into the hands of Ukraine. However, most European officials say that everything depends on Ukraine. Reforms and economic growth will make our country much more interesting for the European Community.