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27 February, 2013

I would be very surprised if Ukraine managed to accomplish all the tasks 100%

Amanda Paul, Policy Analyst and Programme Executive at the European Policy Centre, talks to The Ukrainian Week about the results of the February 25 Ukraine-EU summit in Brussels

U. W.: How do you evaluate the overall results of the summit?

Summits normally never have big breakthroughs and this one was no different.  However, the fact that it took place was a positive sign. The channels of communication were fully opened and all issues were discussed. It offered space for a proper conversation and both topics and grievances were aired.  Statements of commitment were made and important documents were signed.  President Yanukovych repeated, once again, that EU integration is his priority.  The EU side emphasized again that they wanted to sign the AA and DCFTA with Ukraine once the country meets the relevant criteria. The Summit also offered a signal to Ukrainian society that the EU has not given up on Ukraine; that Ukraine is important to the EU and the EU wants to help Ukraine help itself. Ukraine’s leadership knows what homework it must do and when the deadline for it is. This can go any of three ways: Ukraine’s leadership and political elites can adopt an “all hands to the pump” approach in order to progress on EU demands; a piecemeal approach in the hope that doing something but not everything will be enough or they will continue with words but little action, further dragging this beautiful country and its ever patient people to yet another level of despair.

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U. W.: Have you noticed any willingness by Ukrainian authorities to shift from declarations to any specific action on the EU's requirements?

Prior to the summit there was little that might offer hope that Ukraine’s leadership was serious about tackling the EU’s requirements. Those that tried, usually had their paths blocked by those that have a stake in the current status quo. Overall, Ukraine’s policy could be described as one of “many words, yet few actions”. While it seems for the most part that EU requests have fallen on deaf ears, at the same time Ukraine’s opposition parties have hardly been pushing the issue back home either.  More attention has been focused on “making strategies” ahead of the presidential election. At the Summit, President Yanukovych pledged to move ahead on the EU’s criteria. Only time will tell whether he was just “talking the talk” or whether he will do something specific. 

U. W.: In your opinion, how steadfastly will EU defend its position on political prisoners with regard to its requirements?

The EU has made it very clear on numerous occasions that selective justice is unacceptable and must come to an end. Thereby Ukraine's dealing with the issue of political prisoners is absolutely crucial. This is a redline for the EU.

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U. W.: Will the EU sign the Association Agreement if Ukraine only partially fulfils the requirements related to it? For instance, if problem of political prisoners stays unresolved or is resolved only partially? (There are discussions in Ukraine that Yuriy Lutsenko could be released while Yulia Tymoshenko will remain imprisoned). 

This is difficult to answer because we do not know how this progress will be measured and what will be classed as sufficient progress to sign the AA and DCFTA.  While the Commission will seemingly make a recommendation it will be up to member states to ultimately decide.  As we have seen in the past, there may be divisions.  However, what will be crucially important is Ukraine making progress in all areas: demonstrating political will and a genuine desire to reform and resolve the problems which the country presently faces.

U. W.: Given the fact that there is so little time left to fulfil all the requirements, what is the probability that Ukraine will complete them on time and the Agreement will be signed?

Although miracles do happen and Ukraine is predictably unpredictable, I would be very surprised if Ukraine managed to accomplish all the tasks 100% in the short time it has.  However, if sufficient political will is shown and credible progress is made there is still a possibility that the AA may be signed.

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