If Ukraine becomes an associate member of the European Union in November, the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will introduce tough new rules for Ukrainian livestock entering its market, Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reports.
Attempting to avoid trade barriers, Ukraine has asked Russia to sign a memorandum of understanding on mutual recognition of technical regulations and standards. It is also asking the EU for support to cushion the blow for its economy to avoid a social explosion - this among Ukrainians outraged by authorities that have not informed them on consequences of a free trade zone with the EU and have failed to seek their opinion on integration.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich and Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov met in Kiev with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. After the meeting, Azarov told his cabinet ministers that he had asked the European guest about provision of financial and technical assistance to Ukraine to implement requirements of an association agreement. Ukraine’s association deal with the EU would bring both advantages and problems, he said. “Therefore, while Ukraine should resolve issues of interest to our partners, the European Union should take steps to remove discomfort to Ukraine’s foreign trade,” the prime minister added.
Experts say an association agreement envisaging a free trade zone gives no compensatory mechanisms. “Ukraine does not acquire even prospects for a full-fledged EU membership, therefore Brussels does not take obligations financed through the European equity funds,” an expert with Kiev Centre for Political Research and Conflict Studies, Anton Finko, told the newspaper, recalling that the first stage of integration proved an economic test even for those countries which had received financial aid after joining the EU.
“Economic problems in Bulgaria and Romania caused strong anti-government protests. Ukraine finds itself in a more complicated situation. Many experts in Ukraine agree that at the first stage and in the short-term, a free trade zone will to a greater degree meet interests of European business and to a lesser degree those of the Ukrainian economy.” Finko found it difficult to forecast whether Ukraine might face a social explosion. Much will depend on whether the authorities manage to agree on EU support, but trade barriers Russia promises to impose and high gas prices will be an additional test for the Ukrainian economy, he said.
The head of Russia’s veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergei Dankvert, spoke of Russia’s preparation for a new stage of cooperation with Ukraine. “We will have to practically fully reconsider conditions for access of Ukraine’s livestock products to the Russian market over Ukraine’s future signing of an association agreement with the EU,” he said, adding that Russian officials had already encountered cases of relabeling products of EU enterprises which had been banned from the Russian market.