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Azarov: Ukraine seeks integration with EU, hopes for understanding of the pause taken

November 23, 2013, 2:45 UTC+3 23

Prime Minister recalled that Kiev had asked Europe to help restore trade turnover following a slump in trade with Russia only to hear no guarantees in response

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KIEV, November 23 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine is asking the European Union to see nothing tragic in and respond with understanding to its government’s decision to suspend the process of preparations for signing the association agreement, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said on television Friday evening.

“We are targeted at integration with the EU and at signing that agreement, but now we have taken a pause, we have changed nothing strategically. All the changes were tactical,” Azarov said in the Shuster Live talk show on the Inter television channel.

Azarov recalled that Kiev had asked Europe to help restore trade turnover following a slump in trade with Russia only to hear no guarantees in response.

“Our pipes have no customers in Russia, there is no demand for our wheel pairs, nobody buys our compressors of confectioneries. We lose real money. Over two billion dollars. This is an awful lot of money for us,” Azarov said.

He recalled that Ukraine had asked for assistance in concluding a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

“We heard consent. A month passed, then another. Things continued to get worse, but we saw no assistance,” Azarov said.

The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers made a final decision to postpone the singing of the association agreement when it received from the IMF a set of unacceptable conditions for the resumption of financial cooperation.

“The agreement says nothing about the outlook for full membership of the EU. This is true. We regarded the agreement as a chance to reform the country, to achieve some new standards. For that reason we turned a blind eye on some not very correct clauses (in the document for Ukraine),” Azarov said.

Also, he recalled the Customs Union’s warning that in case Kiev established a free trade zone with the EU Ukraine would be excluded from the free trade zone with the EU countries.

“That means that our goods will be liable to very high customs taxes and go uncompetitive,” Azarov said.

Moreover, “it would also spell a loss of 400,000 jobs in the country in annual terms.”

In a situation like that Kiev could not afford to agree to such economic losses.

Azarov addressed Europe and Russia with a call for coming to the negotiating table to look for the solutions of outstanding issues, “in the first place, the price of gas, the elimination of all obstructions to mutual trade with Russia and the restoration of the volume of trade we had last year and the resumption of negotiations (on association with the EU).”

“I see absolutely no tragedy in the possibility we may get back to this issue in six months; time,” Azarov said.

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