Last weekend Russian President Vladimir Putin received in his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich. They discussed cooperation within the framework of the preparation for a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council that will take place in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana on May 28-29. In particular, they focused on Ukraine’s possible accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan as an observer from 2015.
Ukrainian political scientists expressed confidence that Yanukovich’s trip to the Black Sea resort is really connected mainly with the upcoming meeting in Astana, Novye Izvestiya wrote. In particular, documents to grant Ukraine an observer status in the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) are being prepared.
“Such an urgent visit to Sochi demonstrates that at the meeting in Kazakhstan the four presidents prepare to take a serious decision, therefore on Sunday Viktor Yanukovich and Vladimir Putin decided privately discuss documents to be signed in Astana. This concerns possible granting of an observer status in the Customs Union to Ukraine,” the head of Penta Center for Applied Political Research, Vladimir Fesenko, said in an interview with the daily.
The expert also added that if Ukraine gets such a status, it will not spoil Kiev’s relations with the European Union and will not hamper the signing of an association agreement with the EU at the November summit in Vilnius.
In reply to the question why Ukraine needs this step in principle, the political scientist said he saw in this one of the elements of shuttle diplomacy or game on two fronts intrinsic to Yanukovich. The goal of this diplomacy is to get decisions advantageous for Kiev taken both by Russian and western partners. “Thus, Europe will get a signal, if in November no association agreement with the EU is signed, Kiev will take the course for the Customs Union,” Fesenko said.
Valery Muntian, special envoy of the Ukrainian government for cooperation with Russia, CIS and EurAsEC, explained that an observer status will allow the Ukrainian authorities to take part in all meetings of the Customs Union’s governing bodies, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. “Ukraine wants to put forward its proposals, wants them to be taken into account not when decisions are finalized, but before they are taken. It wants its arguments to be heard. The Ukrainian side realizes that it will have no right to vote, as we are not members of the Customs Union, but it is important for us to express our position, offer our views and submit our proposals,” he said.
Along with this, Muntian noted that the normative and legal base of the Customs Union does not envisage an observer status Ukraine asks for. “Therefore countries of the Customs Union are now developing different variants of the scenario how to make advances to Ukraine,” he said. The chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission’s Board, Viktor Khristenko, said earlier Ukraine could hope for an observer status only when the Eurasian Economic Union is established, that is to say by 2015.