KIEV, October 26 (Itar-Tass) —— Ukraine and the European Union have agreed to remove the term “long-term prospect” for visa-free travel for Ukrainians from the association agreement.
A plenary meeting was held in Kiev on October 25 as part of the 20th round of talks between Ukraine and the EU on the association agreement. Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin headed the Ukrainian delegation; Managing Director of the EEAS for Russia, the Eastern Neighbourhood and the Western Balkans Miroslav Laicak led the EU delegation.
“Based on the results of the talks, a number of provisions of the agreement were approved, including an exemption from the reference to ‘long-term prospect’ for visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, October 26.
The sides continued to discuss certain uncoordinated provisions of the agreement concerning the preamble, political dialogue, justice, freedom and security, as well as institutional, general and final provisions.
They also exchanged compromises on further development of relations between Ukraine and the EU.
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Dikusarov said that the 13th meeting of the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Committee would take place in Kiev on October 26.
“The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss pressing issues of cooperation between Ukraine and the EU, specifically the fulfilment of priority tasks related to the association agreement, as well as the creation of a free trade zone with the EU and liberalisation of the visa regime,” he said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said earlier that his country was seeking to sign an association agreement with the European Union, which will reflect prospects for its membership in this organisation.
According to Yanukovich, an agreement with the EU “should be meaningful and carry certain obligations, but partners in the European Union do not want to take our position into account.”
“We are not asking for money, but we have one condition: this document should reflect prospects for Ukraine’s admission to the EU. If it’s not there, it [the agreement] is empty,” the president said.
“There are states that are strongly against EU enlargement, and the impression is that we are begging like the poor relation, but they won’t let us in,” he added.
“If we cannot sign the agreement today, let’s do it tomorrow. Let’s be patient. Let’s see how reforms go in Ukraine. We are carrying them out for ourselves, not for Europe,” Yanukovich said.
The association agreement between Ukraine and the EU was expected to be signed in December. Kiev believes that it had to pave the way for Ukraine’s admission to the EU. However the crisis in relations between Kiev and Brussels over the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko put the matter in limbo. Moreover, some of the EU countries have made it clear that their national parliaments would not ratify this agreement unless Timoshenko is freed.
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned earlier that the entry into force of the agreement between the European Union and Ukraine on association and a free trade zone may be delayed by the Timoshenko case.
She said that the coordination and signing of the agreement would proceed in accordance with the schedule, but the technical stage would be followed by a political one, which includes the approval by the European Union, and this is where complications can arise.
EU ministers confirmed on the sidelines of the meeting that the document would be signed before the end of the year, but its ratification by the national parliaments of the EU member states and by the European Parliament was unlikely to be completed until Ukraine resolves EU human rights concerns, one of which is the Timoshenko case.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko denied politics behind the Timoshenko criminal case.
“It's very bad when opposition leaders are prosecuted, but this is different - this is a matter of government responsibility,” Grishchenko said at the PACE replying to questions from parliamentarians last week.
“The only instance that can solve all questions is the court,” the minister said.
He assured the PACE that Kiev is more interested in an independent investigation of the Timoshenko case.
Yanukovich earlier called for integration and further admission of his country to the European Union.
“Our main priority is integration into the European Union,” Yanukovich said.
“We are ready to sign an agreement on association this year. And we want this agreement to mention prospects for Ukraine's admission to the European Union so that it is not a hollow document,” he said.
Ukraine and the EU began negotiations on a new basic agreement in March 2007 and on the creation of a free trade zone in February 2008. In September 2008, Ukraine and the EU agreed to sign a new reinforced agreement on the principles of Ukraine's association, which would include the creation of a free trade zone.
Speaking of broader ties with the European Union, Yanukovich said EU membership “is not a goal in itself” but a means of modernising Ukraine. “We want to integrate Ukraine into Europe,” he said, adding that this process should be bilateral.
Yanukovich also said that his country would implement the action plan for visa-free travel with the European Union by the end of 2011.
He admitted, though, that it would be hard to do that. “The action plan will require Ukraine to carry out reforms. This is going to be a thorny path, but we are determined to finish it in 2011,” he said.
“The document will set forth clear terms for Ukraine that have to be met for compliance, and we hope that we will be able to do so and the ball will be in the European court,” the president said.