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KIEV, January 01, 22:18 /ITAR-TASS/. The year 2013 was not an easy one for Ukraine and yet it brought about progress, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said.
“It was a year of achievements and challenges, disappointments and new hopes. But by and large, 2013 became a year of progress for us. We go along the path of understanding and national consolidation through squares and national roundtables, political disputes and frank dialogue,” the president said in his New Year address to the nation. “This is a thorny path, but we must travel it together, shoulder to shoulder.”
Among the main events of last year, the president named Ukraine’s relations with the European Union, Russia and China. “We continue to work on the agreement with the European Union. We have resumed friendly and brotherly relations with Russia. And we have made a real breakthrough in relations with China,” he said.
According to Yanukovich, Ukraine “maintains the balance between the West and the East, without giving up its own national interests.”
He expressed hope that the year 2014 would be “a year of unity, development and success.”
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.
The government’s decision caused people to take to streets in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities to demonstrate in support of European integration. Mass protests continued for three weeks.
On December 17, 2013, Yanukovich made a deal with Russia, garnering financial assistance to his country. Under the agreement, Russia will buy Ukrainian bonds worth 15 billion U.S. dollars to be taken from the Russian National Welfare Fund (of this amount three billion U.S. dollars’ worth of bonds have already been placed) and give a 33 percent discount on natural gas for Ukraine. In 2014, Ukraine will pay 268.5 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic metre comared to 400 U.S. dollars paid before.
Ukraine’s leading experts have already positively assessed agreements with Russia. They say these agreements will help Ukraine improve the situation on the financial market, to increase its gold and currency reserves and to repay loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said these agreements had saved the country from bankruptcy and a social collapse. “We have gained the prospect for the future and firm confidence that we will keep up social and economic stability. I state again that nothing threatens this stability,” Azarov said on Wednesday. He also noted that nothing also threatens the financial system in the country. “The agreements help us to adopt a budget of social development. Before this event the adoption of this kind of budget had been ‘absolutely impossible’ and a collapse had threatened the country,” Azarov said.
However, Ukraine is determined to continue its European integration policy and it has reiterated this on several occasions, including at a meeting with European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule in December 2013.
Fule said back then that the EU and Ukraine would work out a roadmap for signing the Association and Free Trade Area Agreement.
The talks will cover three key areas: creating favourable conditions for Ukraine to obtain maximum anti-crisis aid from the International Monetary Fund; creating a bilateral mechanism for consultations to solve problems associated with the signing of the Association Agreement; and determining the real cost of association.
The commissioner stressed that the figures of aid needed by Ukraine that had been mentioned were overly speculative and dismissed Ukraine’s claims for compensation by saying that these figures were neither based on facts nor substantiated.
He said no concrete amounts of compensation to Ukraine had been discussed at the meeting. Instead the sides were trying to structure the systemic dialogue so as to understand how the EU could support the process of integration and association.
At the same time, he promised that European support would become bigger and bigger as integration proceeded further.
Fule urged Ukraine to work only with the IMF in order to overcome the current financial crisis as only the IMF could provide transparent and optimal forms of anti-crisis aid.
He said the EU intended to consider bringing possible aid from the IMF to its maximum but declined to name concrete figures.
However it is the strict terms of IMF aid, which required Ukraine to freeze salaries and raise domestic energy process, that became the “last straw” that forced Kiev to decide against signing the Association Agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in late November 2013.
On December 11, Prime Minister Azarov said Kiev would like to receive 20 billion euro worth of compensation from the EU for signing the association agreement.
“The European Union remains ready to sign the Association Agreement, including DCFTA, as soon as Ukraine is ready and proves its commitment by deeds. Let me make it clear: the Association Agreement is not an offer to the current president or to the current government. Let me recall that we have started the negotiations years ago. Let me stress what the Association Agreement is all about: it is an offer to Ukraine, to Ukrainian people and as such it is on the table. There is a shared ownership of this agreement, so the message that the door is open, should reach not only President’s office and Prime Minister’s cabinet,” Fule said.
He welcomed the European aspirations of the Ukrainian nation and expressed firmly belief that “the Association Agreement, including DCFTA, will be the first substantial step towards fulfilling these aspirations. Respect for our common values and implementation of the Association Agreement will define the future progressive developments in our relationship.”
Fule reiterated that “Europe remains fully engaged and is committed to facilitate finding solutions to Ukraine’s acute political crisis, based on the firm conviction that moving rapidly towards signature of the Association Agreement would constitute a key step for restoring confidence.