KIEV, December 12, 21:51 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine is continuing preparations for signing the Association and Free Trade Area Agreement with the European Union, while pressing for better terms for the export of agricultural products and a 20 billion euro loan, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said on Thursday, December 12.
Having noted that the draft Association Agreement introduced quotas for Ukrainian sugar supplies, Azarov said that “this led to the complete elimination of sugar refineries in Hungary.”
“Do you want us to do the same? We won’t. We will not abolish the import duty on sunflower seeds until we modernise all of our oilseed extraction enterprises,” he said at a meeting with Ukrainian agrarians.
He said Ukraine was not insisting on a revision of the Association Agreement but was calling for revisiting “the terms of its application, that is, interim provisions. Let’s make them beneficial for us.”
Azarov admitted that his government had been aware of the risks during the talks with the EU but the Ukrainian economy had been on the rise at that time. In the current circumstances, Ukraine needs “a loan of about 20 billion euro on normal terms.”
“I do not even want to hear about depriving the agrarian sector of the small state support it gets because subsidies in European countries, specifically in neighbouring Poland, are much bigger than in Ukraine,” the prime minister said.
Agricultural producers stressed the need for the Association Agreement to contain a provision setting transitional periods for the adaptation to European requirements. They believe that Ukraine’s 4.5 million private households need state support for fast adaption to EU standards.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said 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.
The president 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.
Azarov echoed him by saying that Ukraine “cannot sacrifice its economic sovereignty and cannot allow the Association Agreement to be a failure for both Ukraine and the EU.”
“The current economic situation in Ukraine may have such consequences,” he said.
The prime minister said the purpose of the decision to suspend the preparations for association with the EU was to “invigorate economic ties in order to jointly preserve and strengthen the economic potential of the state.”
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.