KIEV, December 02, 23:27 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso have agreed in a telephone conversation on Monday, December 2, that a Ukrainian working group will visit Brussels to continue to discuss the terms of signing an association and free trade area agreement with the EU.
“We are setting up a working group to go to Brussels and we will start the dialogue,” the presidential press service quoted Yanukovich as saying in an interview with Ukrainian television channels.
During the telephone conversation with Yanukovich, Barroso made several points regarding the current tense situation in Ukraine: all sides should show restraint; all civil rights and liberties should be respected; the use of force by the police should be investigated as soon as possible; it is important that the Ukrainian authorities urgently engage with all relevant political forces; a peaceful and political solution is the only way for Ukraine out of the current situation.
Yanukovich agreed with this approach and explicitly confirmed the intention to investigate into the use of force by the Ukrainian police and to inform the public about the results.
During the same telephone call, the Ukrainian president asked Barroso to receive a delegation from Ukraine to have a discussion on some aspects of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
Barroso confirmed the readiness of the European Commission to receive such a delegation at the appropriate level. He underlined that the European Commission stands ready to discuss aspects of implementation related to the agreements already initialled, but not to re-open any kind of negotiations.
These terms were accepted by Yanukovich and it was decided that the timing and the level of this consultation should be arranged through the appropriate diplomatic channels, the European Commission said.
Yanukovich described the upcoming talks as “not easy.” “This is a very difficult dialogue for both sides as it is very hard to go back to changing the terms of the present Agreement. But we want to be honest. This is the first point. Second, we want to act transparently. And third, we want to defend our position. We want to work out such terms that would satisfy us,” the president said.
He believes that the delay in signing the Association Agreement will create conditions for “getting a better understanding of what we will all get from this. We should never hurry to make such crucial steps. These are not toys, these are our interests, our economy, our salaries, pensions, budget and all the rest of it.”
“We want to have better terms in the agreement because our economic interests are involved. If we say that we want to improve the terms, this means that we want to improve them for everyone,” the president said.
He insists on discussing the issue further. “Not only do I suggest but I think that we must have such a discussion so that civil society could assess what we want to achieve, on what terms and why we put it this way. It should be clear that we are defending our interests,” Yanukovich said.
He noted that many of those who had drafted the agreement “are not in power any more, some are not working and will not bear responsibility for it.”
“Who is to blame?” the president asked referring to the decision to postpone the signing of the Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in late November. “The resent government, among others. But the present government is not silent. It is talking about this publicly.”
Yanukovich recalled that even the Academy of Sciences had warned of the risks for the Ukrainian economy that could have been created by the agreement if signed.
The president said earlier that prospects for Ukraine’s association with the European Union could become clearer in December.
“December will show because I do not want to say now that we will solve all 100 percent of questions with Russia we want to solve,” he said.
He said pressing bilateral issues could be solved but this might take some time. “I am convinced that we will find the compromises we need,” he added.
The president said he had discussed many pressing issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their three meetings over the past several months, including at the CIS summit in Minsk, Belarus, and the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
No decisions were made, but “pressing issues concerning gas, mutual trade and others were discussed.”
“The next meeting was two weeks after that. We came close to what we were seeking,” Yanukovich said, adding that no decisions were made but a tentative “set of arrangements” was approved because they had to be coordinated with the free trade area agreement with the European Union as there were “many contradictions.”
“In order to eliminate these discrepancies, we need to sit down at the negotiating table in a trilateral format [Ukraine, the EU and Russia] and work them out,” the president said, adding that “it would be late” to do that after the Association Agreement with the EU was signed.
He promised to sign the Association Agreement after Ukraine had become competitive and reached an agreement with the EU “on comfortable terms.”
“When we reach the level that is comfortable for us and serves our interests, when we come to agreement on normal terms, then we can discuss the signature. When will this happen? Fast or not so fast. Time will tell. I would like this to happen as soon as possible,” Yanukovich said.
On November 21, Ukraine suspended preparations for signing the Association Agreement with the European Union because it had not received a clear signal indicating Europe’s readiness to compensate it for losses from worsening relations with CIS countries, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Boiko said.
“The preparations for the signature of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU have been suspended because Ukraine did not receive a clear signal from Europe regarding compensation for the losses Ukraine had sustained from the complication of relations with the CIS,” Boiko said.
“Over the last four months we saw a decline in industrial production and our analysis showed that this was caused by dwindling trade and economic relations with CIS countries. This caused several enterprises to halt their operation, budget revenue decreased and the number of jobs shrank,” the deputy prime minister said.
Since August 2013, Ukraine has lost 15,000-20,000 jobs and 30-40 billion hryvnia (3.85-5 billion U.S. dollars) worth of trade turnover. Boiko said this had jeopardised the implementation of the president’s initiatives and generally “put the socioeconomic situation in the country at risk.”
Yanukovich said the situation in Ukraine was difficult and if the Association Agreement with the EU were signed, “the state will need support.”
“We have seen nothing but a garrote so far,” he told Ukrainian television channels.
He stressed that Ukraine had already fulfilled 19 of 21 obligations it had assumed before the EU.
Andrei Goncharuk, head of the main department in the presidential administration, said the decision to suspend integration with the EU was connected with its potential risks for the domestic market.
He noted, however, that the government resolution did not put an end to European integration as such. “This is not the end yet. This is just the statement of the position. Now consultations have to be held,” Goncharuk said.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov confirmed that Ukraine and the EU would study the text of the Association Agreement once again and said a delegation headed by his First Deputy Sergei Arbuzov would go to Brussels shortly for this purpose.
The prime minister said “a request for corrections to the document came from some Ukrainian industrialists” who think that “the initialled text of the agreement opens up the Ukrainian market too much.”
On November 12, MP Valentin Landik of the ruling Party of Regions, speaking on behalf of Ukrainian industrialists, asked President Yanukovich to postpone the signing of the agreement with the EU for one year.
“But let’s not make guesses as to whether the wording of certain articles needs to be altered or not. I understand just as well as you do how difficult or almost impossible this is in a finalised and initialled agreement. But we would like to discuss the provisions that worry us,” Azarov said at a meeting with foreign ambassadors on December 2.