President of the European Council
Charles Michel (left),
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (center), President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (right) at the opening of the Ukraine-EU summit. Kyiv, 12 October 2021. Photo: Photo: president.gov.ua
On 12 October, three presidents met in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv — Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, Charles Michel of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission. There they held the 23rd EU-Ukraine Summit. Here are the key points of the final document of the meeting.
Regular EU-Ukraine summits take place annually. They rarely result in any sensational news or the signing of historic agreements, but rather sum up the results of EU-Ukrainian cooperation for the year.
Yet last year, European Pravda points out, the summit resulted in a breakthrough decision. The wording of the final document turned out to be so unprecedentedly strong and ambitious that even the opponents of Ukraine’s current government had to admit this fact.
Meanwhile, this year’s joint statement has raised the bar even higher in terms of its scope and provisions, and it had some sensational points such as the EU’s support for the Ukrainian anti-oligarchic law. Additionally, three additional EU-Ukraine agreements were signed:
- the Open Skies Agreement, which became possible after Brexit;
- an agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community. It concerns Ukraine’s participation in the Horizon Europe Framework Program for Research and Innovation and the European Atomic Energy Community’s research and training program.
- Ukraine became a participant in the European program “Creative Europe,” which should help Ukrainians to implement projects in EU countries, in particular, in the field of culture and media.
More economic integration
In the final statement, its signees reaffirmed their continued commitment
“to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union, on the basis of the Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.”
The sides are going to further strengthen “the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union.”
The important new points within these reiterated commitments, according to European Pravda, are “Ukraine’s further gradual economic integration in the European Union Internal Market” as a distant goal of implementing the Association Agreement and mentioning “mutual commitments” to fully exploit the Agreement’s potential.
Support for Ukrainian sovereignty
The European Union has reiterated its “unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders” and its acknowledgment of Ukraine’s European aspirations, adding that
“We agreed to exploit fully the potential of the Association Agreement and stressed the mutual commitments to that end.”
The document again stresses the need for the EU-Ukraine cooperation in “countering hybrid threats and tackling disinformation“ and the important role of independent media and civil society in tackling disinformation campaigns against the EU and Ukraine, particularly Russia’s ones.
The more reforms — the more aid
The EU representatives recognize the substantial progress in Ukraine’s reform efforts and encourage to enhance them, welcoming such reforms as opening the agricultural land market in Ukraine, judicial reforms, the reinstatement of criminal responsibility for false asset declarations.
The EU officials underlined the importance of implementing the adopted judicial reform-related amendments, including the reform of the Constitutional Court. Another highlight of theirs is the need to adopt the law on the Security Service of Ukraine meant to transform it “into a modern agency with well-defined functions.”
The EU has emphasized its principle of providing aid to Ukraine: the more reforms the more aid, fewer reforms means less aid,
“The EU reaffirmed its continued substantial support for Ukraine with a clear link to the effective implementation of reforms and policy measures,” the joint statement goes.
Since 2014, according to the document, the EU and European Financial Institutions have mobilized the package of more than EUR 17 billion in loans and grants. Now, the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan is going to mobilize up to EUR 6.47 billion in public and private investments.
Amid the uneven relations between Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund, EU representatives welcomed the fact that Ukraine had fulfilled the conditions for the extraordinary EU Macro-Financial Assistance Program and “took note of the decision to disburse its second tranche in the amount of EUR 600 million.”
Praise for de-oligarchization
What is the most sensational statement of this summit, as per European Pravda, is EU support for anti-oligarchic legislation and a call on Ukraine to continue walking this way,
“The EU welcomed Ukraine’s efforts to close the space for corrupt practices and its commitment to fight the influence of vested interests (‘de-oligarchisation’) including through the legally sound enactment and implementation of the relevant legislation and encouraged further steps by Ukraine in this regard,” reads the summit’s final document.
Unprecedented updates to annexes, more trade, and “industrial visa-free regime”
The document welcomes the start of the negotiations on broadening and accelerating the scope of the elimination of customs duties, and the closure of negotiations on updating several annexes of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, including those on financial cooperation; telecommunication, postal, and courier services; maritime transport.
Now, the sides are looking forward to similar progress on even more annexes: on customs, environment and climate, audio-visual policy, company law, corporate governance, accounting and auditing, and consumer protection.
This is all progress towards Ukraine’s impending “industrial visa-free regime” with the EU that is expected to further open the EU market to Ukrainian goods. President Zelenskyy had stated that Ukraine expects to sign this agreement at the summit next year. The agreement concerns the conformity assessment and acceptability of industrial products.
This will be a revolutionary agreement, as it simplifies the entry of not only raw materials from Ukraine into the EU market but also of value-added industrial goods.
Support for Ukraine in gas wars with Russia
An important outcome of the summit was the stated support for Ukraine in energy matters, which became become particularly acute after Russia and Germany announced the completion of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Moreover, in September, Hungary signed an agreement with Gazprom to supply gas bypassing the Ukrainian GTS.
EU leaders stressed both during discussions and in the final statement that the EU will not abandon Ukraine.
In particular, Brussels promises to work out mechanisms to ensure Ukraine’s energy security. The President of the European Commission has contemplated increasing reverse gas supplies from the EU and joint gas storage in Ukrainian gas storage facilities.
“The EU and Ukraine stressed the importance of working together against any potential efforts by third parties (i.e. Russia, – Ed.) to use energy as a weapon, in particular as regards the effects on the sustainability of gas transit through Ukraine,” the final statement of the summit reads.
The long-lasting Hungarian discontent with the Ukrainian language law has also got into the summit’s statement. The joint statement’s Paragraph 17 goes as follows,
“The EU and Ukraine reiterated their commitment to fully respect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, as enshrined in UN and Council of Europe conventions and related protocols. In this regard, Ukraine will continue to consult and cooperate with the Venice Commission and will pursue ongoing substantive dialogue with representatives of persons belonging to minorities, including on related legislation.”
European Pravda’s commentators believe it is a safe guess to say that Ukraine’s Hungarian partners insisted on adding this paragraph with such a detailed description absent from the previous summit’s decision.
However, they also see a positive side to having this point included, which is involving the Venice Commission as a conflict resolver in the Ukraine-Hungarian dispute since Ukraine insists that the legislation was later amended to comply with the Commission’s recommendations.
Russia-related points reiterated
The document reiterates all the key points of last year’s decision, related to the Russian aggression, strongly condemning the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia’s armed forces since February 2014.
The EU and Ukraine reaffirmed and extended their condemnations for:
- Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea;
- the increasing militarization of the peninsula;
- deterioration of the human rights situation there;
- restrictions of the freedom of movement for Ukrainian citizens to and from the peninsula;
- Russia’s holding parliamentary elections on 17-19 September 2021 in Crimea and involving in them the residents of non-government-controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts or ORDLO;
- Russia’s continued persecution against Crimean Tatars;
- the Russian decision to close parts of the Black Sea to non-Russian vessels;
- the violation of the ceasefire by Russia-backed armed formations in ORDLO.
The EU has welcomed the establishment of the International Crimean Platform.
The signees call on Russia:
- to allow unhindered access of international organizations and human rights actors to the areas currently not under the control of Ukraine;
- to release all “illegally detained and imprisoned persons in the Crimean Peninsula and in Russia,” including Crimean Tatar activists;
- to ensure unhindered and free passage to and from the Sea of Azov;
- to refrain from impeding the lawful exercise of navigational rights and freedoms;
- to re-establish a comprehensive ceasefire in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts;
- to immediately stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs;
- to withdraw the Russian military troops and materiel at the eastern border of Ukraine and on the Crimean peninsula.
EU sanctions and Minsk accords
The document reminds that the EU has again extended its economic sanctions on Russia, whose duration remains clearly linked to the “full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”
Thus, the EU’s Russia-related policies and sanctions are going to last,
“We remain fully committed to implementing and keeping our respective non-recognition policies updated, including through restrictive measures.”
On 24 June 2021, EU leaders reaffirmed that “the full implementation of the Minsk agreements remains the key condition for any substantial change in the EU’s stance in its relations with Russia.” Ukraine welcomes this fact, according to the document.
Russia should accept its responsibility for shooting down Flight MH17
As the MH17 trial gradually nears its end, the signees of the EU-Ukraine summit’s joint statement underline their support for all efforts to establish the truth, justice, and accountability for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over Donetsk Oblast in the east of Ukraine on 17 July 2014.
Moreover, the summit participants call on Russia to accept its responsibility in the crash of the passenger jet which claimed 298 lives,
“We called upon the Russian Federation to continue the trilateral negotiations between Australia, the Netherlands and the Russian Federation with regard to the downing of Flight MH17, accept its responsibility and to cooperate fully with all efforts to establish accountability for the downing of flight MH17,” the final paragraph of the document reads.
Support for defense policy
This year’s statement continues a new important provision on Ukraine’s cooperation in the area of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and of Ukraine’s increased convergence with it:
“We looked forward to Ukraine’s participation in EUFOR [military operation] Althea and noted Ukraine’s willingness to participate in individual PESCO [Permanent Structured Cooperation] projects. The EU will explore possibilities to further support Ukraine’s resilience, including in the area of professional military education.”
European Pravda notes that the emphasis on Ukraine’s accession to the Common Security and Defense Policy is an important achievement of the last year, as the EU is generally reluctant to involve foreign partners in this dimension. However, the most ambitious position that Kyiv was working on was not included in the document — there is no mention of a possible EU military mission in Donbas because EU countries have not yet agreed on it.