Photo copyright: YES © 2017. Photographed by Sergei Illin, Aleksandr Indychii and Aleksandr Pilyugin
On 14-16 September 2017, the 14th Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference took place in Kyiv. Previously, from 2004 to 2013, it has been held in Crimea, but it had to be relocated since 2014 due to the Russian annexation. Nowadays, the goal of this meeting is to connect Ukraine to international partners, supports forces for change in the country, and build networks of supporters for Ukraine worldwide.
This year’s installment featured numerous important comments on Ukraine’s economy, security, and its relations with international community. Here are the 10 most interesting ones.
- Ukraine’s President dismissed the swift creation of specialized anti-corruption court. Petro Poroshenko underlined that the procedure of verification and selection of judges to the new Supreme Court took almost 1.5 years and emphasized that it was a long process. In this regard, he noted there was no time for the establishment of a separate anti-corruption court. Additionally, he talked about the creation of anti-corruption chamber in the Supreme Court which could happen “already next month.” At the same time, Poroshenko didn’t exclude the possibility of creating an Anti-Corruption Court in 2019 or 2020.
- Ukraine’s trade representative said EU, Ukraine should review “old” free trade arrangements. Natalia Mykolska stressed that the current free trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU is outdated and has to be updated. “The talks on this DCFTA had been completed a very long time ago. Therefore, this agreement is outdated, in particular, the quotas do not work neither for Ukraine nor for the EU,” she underscored. Mykolska noted that a review would only open new horizons for EU-Ukraine trade.
- The Founder of Rasmussen Global argued that a customs union with the EU could be Ukraine’s long-term strategy. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, currently advisor to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, said that the EU and Ukraine need a new milestone in their partnership. In his opinion, a customs union could be such a goal. “An EU-Ukraine Customs Union cannot be delivered in nearest future, but the prospect of greater economic integration would help Kyiv to implement the free trade agreement and overcome the vested interests which stand in the way of reforms,” Rasmussen emphasized.
- US Special Envoy to Ukraine noted Russia’s offer on peacekeepers in Donbas is harmful to Ukraine, but it might push peace talks. According to Kurt Volker, Russia’s proposals on the deployment of the UN peacekeepers mission in Donbas includes elements that are harmful to Ukraine, but they might be a starting point for future talks. He warned that Ukraine would also have to be ready to implement its political commitments when progress in peace talks is achieved.
- A peacekeeping mission in Donbas should only happen Ukraine gains control of its border, former US Secretary of State stressed. John Kerry pointed out that Ukraine has to be really careful with the UN peacekeeping mission not to fall into a trap. “If you’ve got this mission exclusively on the line of contact [between separatist- and government-held territories – Ed], it could mean a de-facto recognition of this line,” Kerry said.
- The US President of the Council on Foreign Relations sees no swift resolution to Donbas conflict. Richard Haass argued that the probability of cessation of the armed conflict in Donbas and Crimea’s return is very low. “Probably, there will be some peacekeeping contingent on the east, but we understand that this will not solve the issue. I’m also looking forward to sanctions the US Congress to approve, and, possibly, a decision regarding lethal weapons may be approved.”
- The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development President urged Ukraine not to delay reforms any longer. While Suma Chakrabarti noted Ukraine’s progress, he said that the pace of reforms could have been much faster. He also said that it is very important for Ukraine to improve supervision over banks, continue with energy sector reforms, implement the land reform and accelerate privatization. Chakrabarti stressed that the increased pace of transformation that Ukraine is able to show will attract more investments. “You need to restart the engine of reforms again, to give it a new momentum,” the EBRD President concluded.
- Transit of gas through Ukraine after 2020 is a priority for the EU, European Commission Vice-President promised. Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s Vice President and Energy Union Commissioner, stressed that the transit of gas through Ukraine after 2020 is a priority for the EU. He underlined that Ukraine has the potential of becoming an important transit hub for energy sphere. Šefčovič also mentioned that the EU has common ground regarding the Nord Stream 2 project and vowed that this project will not influence the gas transit through Ukraine in any way.
- The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference argued that Ukraine will not be able to join NATO till the end of Donbas war. Wolfgang Ischinger claimed that there is a “simple test” used by NATO for candidate states. “The first question is: are we sure that a candidate country is united in its aspiration to become a NATO member or is there a risk that it may split the country? Second, are we sure that there is a consensus among NATO member states that this is a good move? The third and key question is: are we sure that inviting this particular country will improve European and Euro-Atlantic relations and security?” Ischinger underlined saying that Ukraine would fail this test now
- Ukraine’s foreign minister thinks that Russia’s return to democracy requires more than simply “switching off” propaganda. Pavlo Klimkin pointed out that Ukrainian and Russian societies are very different in terms of their attitude to democracy. “For us, democracy is very important and a very real concept, while Russia cannot do without an autocratic system like the one built up by Putin,” he summed up.