Last week was filled with international victories for Ukraine. We have written about the successes with the UK, where Ukraine achieved two important agreements — a Memorandum to modernize its Navy on 7 October and a comprehensive new partnership and trade agreement that will replace the EU-Association Agreement after Brexit on 8 October.
No less important a victory is the EU-Ukraine Summit which was held on 6 October.
Despite multiple questions raised about troubling tendencies in Ukraine’s backsliding on anti-corruption reforms, Ukraine achieved a decision it had long striven for: the EU’s agreement to renew the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
That is, the EU greenlighted the further integration of the Ukrainian and EU markets.
“Industrial visa-free regime”
Ukraine had long sought a renewal of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and starting from Fall 2019 had seen activity in that direction. Finally, Ukraine’s aspirations were officially greenlighted by Brussels.
Particularly, the joint statement following the Summit states that “we look forward to further enhancing economic integration and regulatory approximation within the framework of the Association Agreement.” The directions for this enhancement were mentioned as:
- Ukraine’s integration into the EU Digital Single Market
- Ukraine’s integration into the European Green Deal (areas of climate change, environment, marine ecosystem, education, energy, transport and agriculture)
- Ukraine’s association into the EU’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon Europe and EU4Health Program
- Ukraine’s integration into the EU energy market
- launching a cyber-dialogue, and enhancing cooperation in the area of Common Security and Defence Policy
- Arguably, the most important part — “We welcomed the launch of the pre-assessment on Ukraine’s preparedness on an Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products” — which means that work on establishing the so-called “industrial visa-free regime,” put forward as a goal by the government, has started. The EU has approved a mission that will analyze how Ukraine upholds criteria that will allow dropping the additional certification of industrial goods for export to the EU.
Three more agreements were signed between Ukraine and the European Investment Bank (EIB) towards work on infrastructure projects with a total cost of €330 million.
Other important outcomes:
The EU reaffirmed its non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea and declared its willingness to uphold and renew sanctions and other methods of pressuring Russia;
Brussel unequivocally stated that Russia is responsible for the war in Donbas in general and the restrictions placed on the OSCE SMM mission:
“We again called on Russia to immediately stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs, and we remain deeply concerned about the presence of Russian military equipment and personnel in the non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine. We reiterated our condemnation of the Russian continuing measures entitling Ukrainian citizens of the areas currently not under the control of the Government to apply for Russian citizenship in a simplified manner, in contradiction to the Minsk agreements. The EU recently renewed its economic sanctions on Russia, whose duration remains clearly linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”\
The signing of the Common Aviation Area Agreement was postponed for an indefinite term;
The EU stressed what it sees as “problem areas” in Ukraine: the judiciary (including reforming the High Council of Justice and the independent recruitment of judges with integrity) and the fight against corruption, ensuring strong and independent anti-corruption institutions, de-oligarchization,” strengthening media pluralism.
The EU acknowledged the important role that civil society plays in countering disinformation campaigns against the EU and Ukraine, including by Russia. The acknowledgment of specifically Russian influence is laudable, as previously EU officials had been reluctant to call out Russia directly, resorting to vague references to just “disinformation.”
Despite initial fears that Zelenskyy would steer Ukraine away from the western course, so far it appears that the government is continuing Ukraine’s westward trend, set off after the Euromaidan Revolution. The three important agreements of the last week are important landmarks on this path.