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KIEV, November 28. /ITAR-TASS/. Problems in the Ukrainian economy that have aggravated ahead of the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union should be discussed in the three-party format between Ukraine, the European Union and Russia, Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Vladimir Kozak said on Thursday at a meeting with students and professors of the National University of Transport.
“A far-reaching decision should be taken at a negotiating table,” he said. “Ukraine should be respected by both its own citizens and foreign partners. To be an equal member of economic unions, we should have partner relations with both the Economic Union and with Russia.” This is what the Ukrainian government was guided by when it took a decision on November 21 to suspend preparations for the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union at the Eastern Partnership summit currently underway in Vilnius.
At the same time, Kozak stressed that Ukraine’s commitment to the course towards European integration. A pause in the preparation for the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union stemmed from “exclusively economic risks,” he said, adding that this agreement did not imply Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. “The Association Agreement is not membership in the European Union,” he noted. “We will not be automatically granted a visa-free regime with the European Union countries and our life will not become better overnight. Association means first of all bigger liabilities.” In this context, he cited European expert estimates that the country’s automotive sector would need three to five years to adjust to European standards, the railway sector would require from eight to ten years and the motorway infrastructure would need from three to six years for that.
After the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, Ukraine “will sustain considerable losses” from reduced trade with Russia and other countries of the Customs Union [of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan], he warned. “The Ukrainian cabinet of ministers has discussed more than once compensation problems with representatives from the European Union, but has received no definite answer,” he said. “At the same time, as a condition for extending a loan to Ukraine, the International Monetary Fund demanded that the Ukrainian government raise tariffs for housing and utilities services, freeze social allowances and stop support to the domestic farming sector and the national currency.” Such conditions, he stressed, were unacceptable for the country. He noted that the economic crisis had already caused a 12 percent drop in domestic and transit railway shipments, and a 22 percent drop in cargo transit via Ukrainian ports. “As long as Ukraine is unable to fulfill the International Monetary Fund’s conditions and the European Union is providing no guarantees of compensation for the losses from decreasing trade with Russia and other member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the government insists on three-party negotiations involving Russia on Ukraine’s association with the European Union,” he added.