Bleak Prospects for EU-Ukraine Deal

Written by | Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Ukraine’s prospects of signing landmark trade and political agreements with the European Union during the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on 28-29 November are growing dim, as it is increasingly apparent that Kiev may choose to renege on its commitments to the EU and may instead opt to Russia to help meet its financial needs. Aleksander Kwasniewski, one of two EU parliament envoys tasked with judging if Ukraine had done enough to sign the trade treaty with the EU, has warned that if there is no deal this year, the pact will be postponed “for an indefinite number of years.”
Developments over the past week have undermined the EU’s confidence in Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president, and his readiness to implement necessary reforms to persuade member states to sign the two agreements during the Eastern Partnership Summit where the EU will meet with its eastern neighbors, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. The EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels next week to assess prospects for the summit, which look increasingly bleak as only agreements with Georgia and Moldova look certain.
Rather than allaying concerns that the Ukrainian judiciary targets political opponents of the president, the Ukrainian authorities added to them on Monday (11 November), when police briefly detained, and later released on bail, the lawyer of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko Vlasenko, accusing him of beating his wife. That setback was followed by a parliamentary vote two days later against allowing Tymoshenko to travel to Germany to receive medical treatment there. The vote and Vlasenko’s detention prompted last-minute revisions of a report on ‘selective justice’ in Ukraine.
Some well-placed sources have alleged that Yanukovych’s considerations are currently driven more by immediate financial concerns, rather than by unease about releasing Tymoshenko, a potential rival in the next elections due in two years. More concretely, Ukraine has been struggling to agree on a stand-by facility of up to €10 billion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been demanding that Kiev raise energy prices and undertake some other politically difficult reforms. Despite Ukraine being in dire need for external stop-gap funding, Yanukovych has lately indicated his reluctance to raise gas prices – in light of this situation and also two recent meetings between Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, speculations are rife that Russia is willing to provide the much-desired financial and diplomatic-political support.

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