Prior to the event, Ukrainian media reported that the country could lose EUR 600 mn of macro-financial aid from the EU because of not implementing measures needed for the next tranche. Also, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko departed to the Summit amid a controversy at home. Against the background of the protests led by ex-president of Georgia and ex-Odesa Oblast governor Michael Saakashvili, a group of Georgians were kidnapped. It is believed that all of this did not have a good impact on the Ukraine-EU relationships on the eve of the Summit and it is still unclear whether Ukraine will receive the EUR 600 mn.
Euromaidan Press together with Ukrainskiy Tyzhden took an exclusive interview with the head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli about the results of the Summit.
How would you assess the results of the Summit for Ukraine?
The results of the Summit for Ukraine are positive. The Summit has acknowledged the achievements of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. They have to take note of the fact that now we have to implement the ambitious Association Agreement, including the DCFTA (the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) without any delays. We also welcomed the active cooperation of the partner countries in establishing of the European Energy Union and committing to bolstering energy security through interconnections, sustainable use of energy resources, enhanced energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The harmonization of digital markets will be fostered in the framework of the EU4Digital initiative, to eliminate existing obstacles and barriers of pan-European online services for citizens, public administrations, and businesses. Obviously, Ukraine will be one of the countries to benefit from the 20 deliverables for 2020. The Summit has again re-stated that the EU remains committed in its support to the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of all its partners, so the overall result in my view is positive.
What does the paragraph about the European Aspirations of Ukraine in the Final Resolution of the Summit mean?
This means once again that the EU acknowledged the fact that Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova want to move closer to the EU and this confirms our wish to strengthen the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the EU through the implementation of the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA. We will do everything possible to support reforms in Ukraine and bring country closer to the EU through increased trade, investment and visa-free people-to-people contacts.
Maybe in the future there will be some roadmap or an algorithm for future membership?
I cannot answer this question. But what is sure is that we are determined to bring Ukraine closer to the EU by harmonizing its legislation with the EU one and by taking over European standards, all with the EU’s financial assistance and sound advice.
How did the situation with the deportation of Mikheil Saakashvili’s allies affect the image of Ukraine during the Summit?
I do not want to speculate what impact all this had on the Summit. I can just tell you that we hope that the freedom of expression and association will be respected in Ukraine, because Ukraine is a democracy and it has to stick to its basic principles. And obviously it has to be done in a peaceful way, people must be allowed to freedom of expression and protest according to the existing laws. If some demonstrators become violent, it is normal that law enforcement agencies intervene. But they must be allowed to demonstrate, express their dissatisfaction in a peaceful way.
What should Ukraine do to improve its trade with the EU?
For Ukraine to improve its already high trade turnover (approx. 40% of all trade is with EU-28) with the EU, the key will be a regulatory convergence, which means that Ukraine has to harmonize its laws with the European norms and standards in such key areas like food safety, technical and industrial standards. This will open more possibilities for trade.
For this purpose, we work with our Ukrainian counterparts to allow the alignment of Ukrainian legislation to with the EU one. Once Ukraine has taken on the bulk of our norms and standards, trade will increase in a positive way and bring new jobs and investments into the country.
European Union has some quotas for trade.
There are a few tariff rate quotas for a few products, but it is not a lot. The main obstacle to the exports of Ukrainian products to the EU are norms and standards. Ukraine should find new partners and niche markets; invest in exporting culture, language skills, and marketing. Once this is done, trade will increase as Ukraine is very competitive when we look at average wages of qualified labour.
Why might Ukraine not receive EUR 600 mn of macro-financial support from the EU?
Ukraine has made significant progress in a wide range of areas since the Macro-financial operation was initiated in 2015 (in public finance management, governance and transparency, the energy sector, and the business environment, and others).
However, four of the twenty-one measures linked to this third and final tranche of Macro-financial assistance remain outstanding.
- The first condition relates to Ukraine’s commitment not to introduce trade-restricting measures – the ban on timber export has not been lifted.
- The second condition relates to the launch of e-declarations verification process.
- The third is about adoption of a law on the credit register.
- And the fourth touches upon the issue of verifying the information about beneficiary company owners.
And as there is no progress on these four conditions, there is a problem.
As for 2018, EU will support Ukraine through a cooperation program worth EUR 200 mn and Ukraine could always ask for a new macro-financial assistance programme.
How would you evaluate the progress of Ukraine in judicial reform, the selection of the Supreme Court judges in particular?
For the Supreme Court, the procedure that has been used was fair and transparent. Also there are some questions about the personalities of some selected judges. Now the priority is to create the Anti-Corruption Court. It has to be created in the nearest future. The Venice Commission has given its legal opinion. The Ukrainian authorities should implement the Venice Commission recommendation and create an Anti-Corruption Court without any delay.