Kyiv, March 22, 2014. Ukraine and the European Union signed an Association Agreement aimed at forging closer economic ties between the two partners. Signing of the Agreement de facto demonstrates Ukraine’s decision to follow a European path, further distancing itself from the Kremlin-led Customs Union.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and heads of the EU Member States signed the long-awaited agreement in Brussels on March 21, 2014, thus confirming a European path for Ukraine. Ukraine and the EU signed the preamble and chapters one, two and seven.
The agreement is intended “to foster, secure and enhance peace and stability in terms of local and international cooperation according to UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and a Charter of Paris for a New Europe,” reads the first chapter of the treaty. Chapter two defines tighter cooperation in the spheres of foreign policy and security; chapter seven outlines general institutional terms and conditions. Additionally, the political part of the deal underscores cooperation in the spheres of justice, security, rule of law and civil liberties.
Adapting the more sensitive for Ukraine, the economic part of the Association Agreement is scheduled to be signed in May 2014, after Presidential elections take place in Ukraine. The economic package includes roadmaps of free trade areas, energy supply exchange, and tight cooperation in agriculture, tourism, entrepreneurship, intellectual property rights protection and taxation frameworks.
By early May 2014 the European Union will cancel 98 percent of all customs taxes currently applied to Ukraine’s exports. Such measures will open European market to Ukrainian products, and will enhance capital inflow and bolster the Ukrainian economy.
At the press briefing, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said that the estimated monetary benefit of the political part of the EU deal for Ukraine is nearly EUR 500 million.
The adoption of the Association Agreement may serve as a primary basis for the future entrance of Ukraine into the European Union. On March 18, 2014, the European Commissioner on Enlargement and European Neighborhood Štefan Füle said that there was a possibility of EU enlargement, referring to Ukraine.
In response to this statement, member of Ukraine’s UDAR party, Iryna Geraschenko announced that Ukraine’s government has to use the opportunity and “needs to do everything possible to submit the EU membership application.”
The signing of the full package of the Association Agreement had been scheduled for November 29, 2013. The preparation to signing of the AA was, however, suspended by Ukraine’s former government on November 21.
This decision caused public dissatisfaction and major unrest which resulted in multiple violent clashes between the public and pro-government forces, costing more than one hundred lives and thousands of injuries, and for Viktor Yanukovych, his presidential position.