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KIEV, November 4 (Itar-Tass) - More than 18,000 people have signed a petition to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in support of the country’s accession to the Customs Union created by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The petition, registered in the presidential office on Monday, November 4, says, in part: “We citizens of Ukraine are signing this appeal to you as President and urge you to fulfill the will of the people of Ukraine and join the Customs Union within the Eurasian Economic Community as its full member.”
The document voiced concern about “the direst economic situation in the country, mass unemployment, degradation of the health and education systems, a demography catastrophe, the outflow of labour and the absence of future for young people.”
“Our country needs to be rescued! We believe this can be done only by leading Ukraine to join the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan,” the appeal said.
The Communist Party of Ukraine has proposed holding a nationwide referendum on the country’s accession to the Customs Union.
“Representatives of oligarchic clans who hold positions of power now will have to take into account the opinion of the people and we say this publicly,” party leader Pyotr Simonenko said.
If the referendum initiative is registered, the group that put it forth can start collecting signatures on the next day and has to collect three million signatures or more within 40 days, with at least 100,000 signatures to be collected in no less than two-thirds of the regions (18 regions).
“If all these requirements are met, the Central Election Commission will have to submit the relevant appeal to the president of Ukraine for calling a referendum on this people's initiative. If the head of state makes such a decision, the Central Election Commission has to name the date of the referendum on the second day after the entry into force of the presidential decree,” CEC member Yuri Donchenko said.
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.
Ukraine is discussing forms of cooperation with the Customs Union with each of its three member states - Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan - separately.
Customs Union countries are key trade partners for Ukraine. In 2012, trade turnover with them reached 63 billion U.S. dollars, making up 36 percent of Ukraine's overall export.
Yanukovich said that Ukraine was looking for a model of cooperation with the Customs Union.
He believes that the country can become an observer in the Customs Union and “find a formula that will correspond to the level of our relations.”
“We are interested in this. In fact, the Customs Union countries are our strategic partners,” the president said.
Yanukovich stressed that Russia is a “key country in the Customs Union.”
Ukraine cannot ignore the existence of the Customs Union and should work out acceptable forms of cooperation with it, Yanukovich said.
However he reiterated once again that European integration is a priority for Ukraine.
On September 18, the Ukrainian government approved the text of the Association Agreement with the EU. Sections dealing with economic cooperation make up the biggest part of the document. There are seven sections in the agreement, which contains 486 articles.
In additional to the general principles, the agreement has sections concerning political dialogue and reforms, political association, cooperation and convergence in the field of foreign policy and security, trade, economic and industrial cooperation, financial cooperation, the fight against fraud, as well as institutional, general and final provisions.
The principles of free market economy will provide the basis for relations between Ukraine and the EU. They will also cooperate in fighting money laundering and financial support for terrorism.
The Association Agreement was initialled in 2012. After a technical check-up, the sides are now translating it to Ukrainian and the languages of all EU member states. Once that is done, the document will have to be signed and ratified.
The agreement will “create totally new conditions for the development of Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara said. “The free trade area with the EU takes into account the interests of all our manufacturers. Where interests were infringed upon, Ukraine conducted negotiations and acted persistently.”
The government will set up a high-level working group to draft proposals on how to minimise possible risks from the implementation of the agreement for the Ukrainian economy.