Life after EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

Author : Taras Kachka

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine must persuade the EU to formally recognize Ukraine's European perspective
12:33, 4 September 2017

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Entry into force of the Association Agreement with the EU (AA) has for a long time been a key challenge of Ukrainian government and society. Now the goals have been achieved, and it is time to think what to do next.

The last three years have shown that Ukraine sees (and actively uses) two ways of further European integration - developing economy and business on a European model and joining the EU. At the moment, we are floating in both these ways. Including - due to lack of proper bureaucratic work.

Trade with the EU countries takes now 41.1% of the total volume of foreign trade in goods, while in the first half of 2017, exports of goods and services to the EU grew by 22.8% compared to the same period in 2016 (it amounted to $ 9.4 billion).

This means that Ukrainian business already has a significant benefit from the abolition of customs duties, which began to operate from April 2014, and came out of a gap in the volume of trade with the EU, which we had two years ago. There were many factors of the fall: the war, painful recovery of the financial market, and fluctuations in prices on commodity markets...

Related: Association Agreement entry into force is celebration day for European continent, - Juncker

But the most important thing is that eventually the EU market came from those producers who were previously focused on Russia or the domestic market. Among them are large producers of dairy products and quite small manufacturers of insulating tape from Bakhmut - there are many examples, and they are very different.

The EU ceases to be something exotic for Ukrainian business. And at the same time, Ukraine ceases to be something exotic for a global business.

Formally, this is by no means connected with the Association Agreement, although its indirect effect is visible. I mean opening of factories for the production of units for cars in Lviv region, active participation of Ukrainian businessmen in business forums, and increasingly frequent stories about successful work in the EU markets...

Realizing the political goal (joining the EU) is also possible. This is confirmed by the history of the European Union: for all European countries, the Association Agreement was preceded in time or simply logically linked to the accession negotiations with the EU.

And here it is necessary to make a reservation.

Junker reminds us that "we are not yet in the EU". Even if, tomorrow, the European Union recognized the European perspective of Ukraine, this would not mean any automatism in the further path to membership. If the Act on the conditions of Ukraine's accession to the EU is once signed, it will not happen very soon.

Related: Poroshenko thanks diaspora for supporting European aspirations of Ukraine

We need to discuss our future relations with the EU. In the end, we also had to overcome many stages along the way to the Association Agreement. Unilateral preferences, signing, provisional application of AA without a trade bloc, temporary application in full, ratification and entry into force - all these stages of the transaction were not automatic. We tried to stop because of political pressure, because of long tripartite consultations with the participation of the Russian Federation... We passed through an epic story with the Netherlands... And visa-free regime...

Political and diplomatic work of incredible intensity was required to go through this path. Now is the best time to direct this intensity to work on joining the EU.

Consequently, we must persuade the EU to formally recognize Ukraine's European perspective.

This is what opens the way for Ukraine's accession negotiations. Yes, this may happen sometime in the future, but now you need to take the first step.

Ten years ago, nobody believed that the new "enhanced agreement with the EU" would be possible.

At present, the actions of the Ukrainian authorities on this path do not deserve a positive assessment. We have implemented only few of hundreds of mentioned EU acts on AA, and about 83 of them are already behind the schedule.

Related: Ukraine as Belarus’s window to Europe

At the same time, there is often a backlog even in those areas where the success of Ukrainian reforms is universally recognized. For example, nobody denies the progress in public procurement reform, but Ukraine has not approved the formal decisions that trigger the opening of public procurement markets identified in Article 154 of the AA. We have demonstrated progress in the reform of technical regulation, but we still do not have the ACAA protocol, which legally recognizes our system synchronized with the European one.

By the way, not only by Ukrainian officials and parliamentarians generate the problems. In a number of cases, the problem is the inertia of the EU. But our interest and our task is to overcome this inertia.

The nearest meeting of the bilateral authorities of the AA is the Committee of Trade Unions Association, which to be held on September 28-29. This event should become crucial.

If the meeting is held without the approval of clear decisions on public procurement, technical regulation, and other trade sections, it will be a clear indication that our bureaucracy is not ready to support the loudly proclaimed president's goal and cannot do any of the first steps towards joining the European Union.

Related: Diplomatic mistakes: Ukraine could not defend its European perspective and was dragged into election scandal

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