Government officials explain successes and challenges Ukraine has faced in 2016 on the way to European and Euro-Atlantic integration, envisage current state of play.
Ukraine’s successes in the field of European and Euro-Atlantic integration include a series of laws adopted that are required to harmonize Ukrainian legislation with the European standards as well as a series of documents that relate to the defense sector reform and the advance of Euro-Atlantic cooperation. Main internal challenge is reluctance to adopt over 40 crucial laws, main external challenges include reluctance to fully ratify the Association Agreement with the EU and liberalize the visa regime. Ivanna Klympush-Tsinsadze, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration; and Olena Zerkal, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine for European Integration, elaborated further on Ukraine’s achievements in the field speaking at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
This year Ukraine has completed a cycle of strategic planning by adopting a series of documents that include the strategy for national security, military doctrine, development concept for security and defense sector, strategic defense bulletin, state target program for development of armament and military equipment until 2020. “We now have concrete plans as to reforming of the security and defense sector as well as particular goals broken down to concrete steps that embrace next several years,” the Vice Prime Minister said.
Comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine has been approved at the NATO summit this year, it foresees development of cooperation in 13 main directions. “Establishing eight NATO trust funds and keeping them running – is a big part of the package. The trusts cover considerable amount of our needs including modernization of the command system, management, communication and digitalization,” the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration noted. They also include the funds for rehabilitation of combat veterans and de-mining activities.
New year-long national program of cooperation with NATO is being finalized. For the first time it is not compiled as a list of joint actions but will also include reform plans for defense sector and will touch upon all areas. Programs for professional training of the military are also being updated in line with the NATO standards. About two thousand Ukrainian troops or four battalions have been skilled in partnership with the NATO, currently the fifth battalion is being trained. “Establishing the Training Center for the special operations forces is at its final stage, we are also finalizing the setup of a modern training center at the Yavoriv training ground,” added Klympush-Tsinsadze.
The Vice Prime Minister said that Ukraine is currently at the point when its legal framework in various spheres is subject to comprehensive changes so that it meets the European standards. All documents now go through the Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine and get examined to define whether they are in line with the EU standards. Governmental committee for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, international cooperation and regional development was established at the Cabinet of Ministers.
According to Klympush-Tsinsadze key achievements this year include the law on the national energy regulating authority, public procurement reform, harmonizing corporate data openness rules as well as equality in employment with the EU standards. In 2016 road map on implementation of the EU law as to the sanitary and phytosanitary measures was approved. “Implementation of the road map will grant us a wider access to EU markets and will protect our consumers,” noted Klympush-Tsinsadze.
Main internal challenge is the delay with adoption of the laws required to bring the legislation to the European standards. “The Parliament has been considering about 46 draft laws for quite a long time now,” the Vice Prime Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration said.
External challenges include protraction with EU’s positive decision on visa liberalization as well as with complete ratification of the Association Agreement. As to ratification of the Agreement by the Netherlands, Ukraine has almost achieved the acceptable compromise. “As per the results of yesterday’s hearings at the parliament of the Netherlands, not only the coalition but also the ‘Greens’ have decided to support the Agreement, it actually unblocks the issue at least in the lower chamber,” explained Olena Zerkal. “I am convinced that next year ratification will be completed,” added the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister.
As to the visa-free regime, the procedure that would define the mechanism of suspending the regime and that was blocking further developments has been completed. However the decision is supposed to go through a series of internal procedures (in January as it is expected), further developments that will have their impact on Ukraine depend on how quick would this process be. “Results of the recent summit and of the recent council session show yet again that the EU is not changing its policy towards Ukraine and is ready to support Ukraine,” stated Zerkal.
Increased exports to the EU
Natalia Mykolska, Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade – Ukraine’s trade representative said that Ukraine’s export volume to the EU has increased by 2,4 percent over the 10 months of this year and constitute USD 10,7 billion. Sectors with biggest investments have demonstrated biggest growth. Over 80% of all Ukrainian exports of light industry goods and over 50% of all the export volume of wood, paper and industrial goods are currently exported to the EU. Majority of goods that was earlier buying Russia are now also exported to the EU – including railway equipment, rubber and gum, aluminum products. “Exports of butter has increased 130 times, of ice-cream 62 times, of turbines 30 times, of beacons and ships 21,9 times, of fruit and vegetables 7-15 times,” Mykolska noted. This figure can increase even more after Ukraine fully adopts the European phytosanitary standards.
Ukraine’s trade representative also said that Ukraine had started the process of joining the Regional Convention on pan-Euro-Mediterranean preferential rules of origin. Negotiations on Ukraine joining the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) are ready to start as well as the ones on including Ukraine into a unified digital pan European structure. Moreover the European Parliament is currently considering a draft regulation of the European Commission suggesting additional trade preferences for Ukraine. “It also gives us additional quotas for a series of agricultural goods as well as decreases or abolishes customs duties for some industrial ones. As per our preliminary assessment, if implemented the regulation may result in export increase that amounts to USD 100-150 thousand under current production volumes,” Mykolska noted.