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Blog: EU must not allow Kremlin to obstruct the trade agreement with Ukraine

Today, the 1st of December, a new round of trilateral talks between the European Union, Ukraine and Russia will take place, to discuss the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Ukraine as of the 1st of January 2016. Ahead of the talks, Russia once again raised objections to the DCFTA, after having earlier given signals that it could perhaps agree with its implementation. Putin has threatened to impose trade restrictions on Ukraine if it starts implementing the agreement with the EU. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is a part of the Association Agreement which was signed by the European Parliament and the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada) in 2014. The European Commission projects the deal could add six percent economic growth to Ukraine in the short term and twelve per cent in the long run. However, The Kremlin voiced concerns that its economy would be negatively impacted by the implementation of the DCFTA. As part of the Minsk Protocol it was decided in September 2014 that the date of provisional entry into force would be postponed until the 1st of January 2016. In the meantime, the EU would enter into trilateral talks with Ukraine and Russia, to try to take away the Russian concerns over the DCFTA. It is the first time that the EU has ever talked about the implementation of a bilateral agreement with a third country. There have been regular meetings and officials from DG Trade have tried to explain how the DCFTA would work and why it is not a danger to the Russian economy. However, Russian officials have raised issues which have no relation to the DCFTA and asked for concessions from Ukraine which would mean that it could not comply with the terms of the DCFTA. These demands indicate that the goals of Russian officials are political and have raised doubts as to whether there was ever a constructive approach or even the wish to find solutions on the Russian side. The concerns from the Russian side remain unclear. A strengthened Ukrainian economy would actually provide economic opportunities for Russia too, and the DCFTA does not stop Ukraine from entering into a free trade agreement with Russia or the Eurasian Customs Union for that matter. It seems that the Kremlin's real aim has been and will remain forcing a further delay or cancellation of entry into force of the DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine, for political reasons, rather than real concerns. The implementation of the DCFTA must not become a bargaining chip in other discussions about the review of the Minsk II agreement, prolongation of sanctions or the Russian role in Syria. These are important issues, to be sure, and a dialogue about them is crucial. But the decision to enter into a trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine was taken by the EU and Ukraine, and is supported by the public. Russia should not be in a position to delay or reverse that.
See also: 22-09-2015 “Fight the real information war with Russia” 14-11-2014 MEP: violation Minsk protocol unacceptable 03-11-2014 Marietje Schaake: All sides in Ukraine conflict must respect earlier agreements 23-10-2014 MEP: Grave concerns about Russia’s crackdown on civil society and ngo’s (Speech & Resolution) 22-10-2014 ALDE MEP Schaake reacts on preferential market access to the European market for Ukrainian companies 23-09-2014 MEP: Frozen conflict in Eastern Ukraine unacceptable