Ukrainian flagOn December 19 the official Kyiv welcomed a delegation of EU representatives to the annual Ukraine-EU Summit. Amongst the EU leaders are the Commission’s President Barroso and the European Council’s leader, Herman Van Rompuy. The summit is expected to focus on the Association Agreement, comprised of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and visa-free travel to EU countries for short-term stay. The conclusion of the Agreement during the Summit is as uncertain as Europe’s ability to sustain its monetary union. But this time the explanation lies outside of the EU.

While the two parties have agreed on the technical details of both the political and the economic components of the document, the text of the preamble remains incomplete and controversial. This fall, Ukraine’s president Victor Yanukovych called for Ukraine’s EU membership prospects to be included in the preamble. It was an unrealistic demand to make, in the context of Europe’s expansion fatigue and most importantly, Ukraine’s internal developments.

The arrest and questionable trial of the opposition leader and former PM, Yuliya Tymoshenko, has exposed issues of selective justice and political motivation against high profile political figures. Tymoshenko has been condemned to 7 years in prison for exceeding her powers in 2009, in signing a gas deal with Russia.

But according to many Ukrainian experts, it is the existing gas sector lobby that is primarily to blame for the lack of progress on Ukraine’s EU integration. One of the key priorities of this business group led by Dmytro Firtash, a billionaire and co-owner of the gas intermediary RosUkrEnergo, is to keep Ukraine in the grey zone, neither with Russia nor with the EU. A closer union with the eastern neighbor could lead to a loss of assets to the Russian government, while EU integration would call for increased transparency in the energy sector. Tymoshenko has openly criticized the role of intermediaries involved in opaque gas dealings between Russia and Ukraine.

While the Summit is unlikely to produce concrete results with regard to the conclusion of the Association Agreement, the EU officials could use it as an opportunity to voice their serious concerns over deteriorating democratic norms and the rule of law. Andrew Wilson from the European Council on Foreign Relations argues that one of the ways is to introduce targeted sanctions on travel and financial privileges enjoyed by the responsible Ukrainian officials. 


(Photo © DR)