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YALTA, September 22 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine does not deny cooperation with countries of the Customs Union [of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan], despite its plans to sign anassociation agreement with the European Union in November, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said on Saturday.
“We will come to a consensus,” he pledged speaking at at the 10th Yalta European Strategy (YES) Conference. “There is no avoiding each other. We are destined to cooperate with the Customs Union countries.” He said Kiev was ready to join some of the Customs Union agreements right now. Azarov noted that the association agreement with the European Union posed no “trade threats” to the Customs Union. Ukraine, in his words was ready to set up joint customs posts with the Customs Union countries to control imports.
At the same time, he admitted that after the signing of the association agreement his country would have much work to harmonize its standards with the European ones. It will take “much time and money,” he added.
Russian president’s adviser, Sergei Glazyev, spoke about possible risks for Kiev after trade limitations with the European Union countries were lifted. He said the association agreement was not equal for Ukraine, since “Ukraine only fulfills the European Union’s directives, while in the Customs Union everything is settled on the basis of consensus.”Despite a transition period, Ukrainian manufacturers would not be able to introduce strict standards of the European Union, while the Customs Union member countries would have to impose certain measures, including import taxes on Ukrainian-made goods, to protect their markets, he noted. “It implies extra losses of three to four billion U.S. dollars to the trade deficit, which is very much likely to reach 12015 billion U.S. dollars,” Glazyev said. “In this event, who will pay for Ukraine’s default which seems to be inevitable? Is Europe ready to pay some 35 billion U.S. dollars for Ukraine’s default?”
He also noted that there was no unanimity in Ukraine as concerns the support to the government’s cource towards European integration. So, before taking such a serious foreign policy step, a national referendum would be expedient to learn what the Ukrainian people think about it, he added.
Poland’s former President Aleksander Kwasniewski noted that Kiev was very close to the signing of the association agreement with the European Union. It had fulfilled two conditions, namely it had adopted laws on court reform and election legislation reform. “There is one outstanding problem, that of selective justice, which is linked with the release of Yulia Timoshenko,” he stressed.
Bill Clinton, the former President of the United States, noted that Ukraine could cooperate with both Russia and be in association with the European Union or even a member of the European Union. Ukraine’s history had good examples of cooperation with both sides, he added.