Foreign media digest 26 September 2014


A top European Union official backed away from a pledge not to allow changes to the bloc’s newly ratified trade pact with Ukraine

The Wall Street Journal:

A move likely to intensify Russian pressure on the country, journalists Laurence Norman and Gregory L. White point out.

“I think it’s in the interests of everybody now to work constructively on these matters,” European Commission President José Manuel Barroso told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “We are open and we are constructive and are pragmatic.”

The newspaper explains: “The comments mark a change in tone from Brussels, which had previously ruled out any reworking of the accord. The EU and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko already agreed Sept. 12 to delay implementing key sections on trade until 2016. Russia, in turn, agreed to back off a threat to impose sweeping trade restrictions on Ukraine.”

Any further concessions could be another blow domestically to Mr. Poroshenko, the newspaper thinks. “Mr. Barroso said that during his periodic discussions with Mr. Putin, there was an “understanding” that the Sept. 12 compromise “was opening the space and the time for discussions about the way to implement” the trade pact, “considering also some Russian concerns.”

За словами одного джерела, який був ознайомлений з внутрішніми обговореннями в Кремлі, відстрочка введення в дію угоди між Україною та ЄС спричинила сварку в російському уряді незабаром після того, як на неї погодилися. В адміністрації відбувся повний злам комунікацій, і учасників переговорів, в тому числі міністра економіки Улюкаєва жахливо сердито відчитали.

The Financial Times:

EU officials have remained adamant the treaty cannot be changed despite Kremlin demands that as many as 2,400 tariff lines be modified in the pact. “We are creating a kind of ‘time out’; you could call this a ‘peace clause’,” Karel De Gucht, the EU’s trade chief who negotiated directly with Mr Putin last month in Minsk, said in an interview. “The Russians, of course, they do not see this as a period of clarification but as a time they can put on the table a personne interposée [third party] – in fact emptying the agreement,” he adds. According to the newspaper’s hypothesis, Mr Putin’s letter appeared part of a growing realisation in Moscow that the 15-month hiatus had not won the Kremlin any concrete concessions since it allowed the treaty’s ratification to proceed. “According to one person briefed on internal Kremlin deliberations, the hiatus led to a bust-up within the Russian government shortly after it was agreed,” the edition underlines.

The EU needs to develop a 10-year plan for Ukraine. He is central to how Europe looks like in a decade. We call it Merkel Plan.


“Brussels must now help the country to be a reasonably functioning state. As for the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, the EU could win them over by providing the visa-free travel regime. “The experience with southern-eastern countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union shows these transformations has changed public opinions faster,” the article states.

Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t need to send soldiers to Ukraine to create the chaos. Russia has financial instruments to drive pro-European Ukraine into beleaguered posture. It could be possible by a clause in the contracts for a three billion dollar Ukrainian government bond, which is supported by Russia and runs until the end of 2015.


This states that the total government debt must not rise above 60 percent of gross domestic product. If this condition is not met, Russia can demand an immediate repayment from the government in Kiev. According to Finance Minister Alexander Shlapak, “In this case, the Ukraine would probably use 16 billion dollar foreign reserves of the central bank and the funds provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”

“There is little doubt that the level of the foreign debt won’t exceed those mentioned in the agreement,” said analyst Tim Ash of the Standard Bank. Russia could use this opportunity to worsen the situation in Ukraine seriously. The IMF expects the debt could be set at 67 percent at the end of the year.

However, this scenario bears poses threat to Russia itself. Russian banks could also suffer from Ukraine’s default, including Sberbank, VTB, Alfa bank. The rating agency Moody’s calculated Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank (VEB), Sberbank and VTB could lose up to $ 30 billion.


Proclaiming that “the main, most dangerous part of the war is already in the past,” President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine said on Thursday that his office was in constant communication with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to sustain a truce in eastern Ukraine, and that Ukraine was now looking ahead to pursue membership in the European Union.

The New York Times:

During his first big press-conference since the inauguration, Petro Poroshenko outlined a program of social and economic reforms. This program foresees about 60 reforms and special programs that will allow Ukraine to prepare for submitting in six years a bid for membership of the European Union. The same day Ukraine closed its borders with Russia.



Oettinger: Еттінгер: Gas disagreement between Russia and Ukraine, which could happen in the nearest future, is the best evidence for us, Europeans, to seek for mutual actions to decrease the dependence on outside energy suppliers.

Die Zeit:

“Will Russia turn off gas on Christmas? Will millions of Europeans suffer from cold in their homes? In such a way, European energy minister Gunter Oettering starts his article for German Die Zeit. “Gas disagreement between Russia and Ukraine, which could happen in the nearest future, is the best evidence for us, Europeans, to seek for mutual actions to decrease the dependence on outside energy suppliers,” Oettering writes. But the concept of the European energy Union represents “something more than a simple concept: it opens a new perspective and means giving up some old habits. It requires further cooperation,” European commissar stresses.


G7 leaders in their statement said sanctions are not an end in themselves. They can only be rolled back when Russia meets its commitments related to the ceasefire and the Minsk agreements and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The Financial Times, France Press:

Italian enterprises are against anti-Russian sanctions which strike back on most of the national companies. Prime Minister Renzi in his interview Bloomberg TV said, “sanctions against Russia should be cancelled”.

La Stampa:

Warsaw wants “normal relationship with Russia”. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna will try to improve ties with Moscow.

Le Monde:

Newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs Grzegorz Schetyna is seeking normal relations with Russia and Ukraine, Alan Sal writes. Polish democracy is turning the page over. For 7 years, Radoslav Sikorski has been strengthening the role of Warsaw in European geopolitics. From the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine this former journalist had a reputation of one of the main anti-Russian politicians, the edition writes. Will Poland’s external policies course change? The answer seems obvious after recent messages of a new Foreign Minister: “I will do everything to improve ties with Russia and Ukraine,” Grzegorz Schetyna underlines. “Polish people should be sure our policy in the East will guarantee their safety.”