YALTA, September 21 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine needs to hold a referendum on the Association Agreement with the European Union or accession to the Customs Union created by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, Russian presidential adviser and Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) Deputy Secretary-General Sergei Glazyev said.
“If you are so sure that the majority of Ukrainians support the idea, hold a referendum,” Glazyev said on Saturday, September 21, at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) Conference, which is the largest social institution of public diplomacy in Eastern Europe, providing an open and equal dialogue on global issues affecting the European Union, Ukraine, Russia and other countries. This non-partisan organisation established in 2004.
Ukrainian MP Pyotr Poroshenko said earlier that more than half of his fellow citizens supported European integration. “For the first time in our history more than 50 percent of people support European integration and less than 30 percent the Customs Union,” Poroshenko said.
On September 17, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission rejected an appeal, filed by the communist party and the Ukrainian Choice public movement, for a nationwide referendum on the country’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC).
A week before that, the communist party and Ukrainian Choice had organised a meeting, which was attended by 2,508 people. They set up a group to collect signatures in support of the referendum and approved the wording of the question proposed for the plebiscite. However the Central Election Commission refused to register the group.
Glazyev believes that Ukraine will benefit economically more if it signs an agreement on cooperation with the Customs Union. He thinks, however, that Ukraine will sign an agreement with the EU. “In this agreement [with the EU] Ukraine acts as a colony that gives up its sovereignty in the field of trade policy, technical regulation and sanitary and veterinary control, i.e., state procurements and subsidies,” Glazyev said.
He noted that if Ukraine signs an agreement with the EU, it will lose the status of trade and economic partner of Russia as it will have to discuss all issues concerning “trade regime, customs and technical regulation” directly with the EU leadership.
Glazyev said Ukraine’s motives underlying its intention to sign an agreement with the EU were anti-economic even though the authorities were trying to justify their decision by references to the public opinion.
However, the joint Russian-Ukrainian public opinion surveys indicate that about 36 percent of Ukrainians support the agreement with the EU and about 38 percent favour the country’s accession to the Customs Union.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said his country would continue to move along the road of European integration but would also develop relations with Russia and other Eurasian community countries.
“Association with the European Union should become a stimulus for Ukraine to continue building a modern European state,” the president said. “At the same time, we should preserve and continue to deepen our relations and integration with Russia, Eurasian community countries and other world leaders and new centres of economic development. This is Ukraine’s choice. And we all bear responsibility for its realisation,” Yanukovich said.
He said earlier this year that an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU would be signed at the Vilnius Summit this autumn as there “are all conditions” for signing the agreement before the end of 2013.
European integration will be incomplete without Ukraine, he noted.
“I am convinced that the united Europe project will be incomplete as long as such big European countries and nations as the Ukrainian people remain outside it,” he said.
Ukraine understands that the EU is living through hard times, which makes it “extremely sensitive to prospects for further enlargement,” but integration in Europe “is directed towards greater economic stability and security and stronger European values,” the president said.
“This is a movement towards stronger Europe,” he added.
He also said that Ukraine is ready to accelerate technical preparations for the signing of the association agreement with the European Union. “We have basically begun implementing certain agreed-upon provisions of the agreement as part of the Association Agenda,” Yanukovich said.