Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy, visited Kyiv on February, 7, addressing members of Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament). Answering questions from civil society and students at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy he made the following remarks:
On Ukraine’s EU Membership perspective: A couple of years ago there was no connection between Eastern Partnership and the eventual EU membership perspective. This has changed with the new Neighbourhood Policy. In the new policy we tried to define an endgame of this partnership. The only logical decision with regard to our Eastern neighbourhood was to commit ourselves to what the Lisbon Treaty says, and article 49 says that any European country, promoting the values and the principles the EU is founded on, can become an EU member state.
Therefore, we put down the wall between Eastern Partnership and the perspective of membership. However, make no mistake: there is an extremely long way between these two.
The EU membership perspective is the most powerful tool to transform whole countries and regions. But today we are far from that goal. And I hope that the Vilnius summit [in November 2013] will make another step towards it.
On the Association Agreement: The Association agreement is much more than another free trade agreement. It is opening a door to a large portion to the European Union acquis. But it also provides Ukraine with access to EU policies in various areas.
On a provisional application of the Association Agreement. This is something we can do if the relevant parts of the agreement fall in the exclusive competence of the European Commission, or are part of the shared competence with the Member States. Under normal circumstances provisional application can mainly cover the technical aspects of trade. We are looking for ways of proposing such a package of provisional application which would cover not only technical and trade-related issues, but also some important issues related to the rule of law, strengthening of democracy, fundamental freedoms. The provisional application can enter into force within a few weeks or months after signing the agreement, while the ratification process [by all EU Member States] might take one-and-a-half or two years.
On deadline for signing the Association Agreement. The deadline is clear: November this year. There is nothing like “December deadline” or “January 2014 deadline”. Timing, creating the momentum, is important in politics. I’m sceptical that if you miss a November deadline, you could pick up from your back pocket another date. Look at the political calendar in the EU in 2014: elections in the European Parliament, new Commission, or at the political calendar of Ukraine in 2015 – and you will see that to generate a new political momentum, it will take months if not years.
On the upcoming EU-Ukraine summit. The summit on February 25 will be a point where we hope to finalise the memorandum of understanding on macro-financial assistance (€610 million of support to Ukraine). We’ll hopefully be able to take note of Ukraine’s full delivery on the first stage of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.
We will also talk a lot on energy. We are finally entering the stage when we can deliver on our coordination of the assistance from international financial institutions to upgrade the Ukrainian gas transmission system, which we still consider to be the most reliable system to deliver the Russian – and not only the Russian – gas to Europe.
On energy. What you have done in the energy field, is impressive. Decreasing the use of gas, signing the Shell deal, and for the first time receiving the gas – a cheaper gas – not from the East, but from the West, – this is quite an achievement. You’re building a new confidence, not only European but also international confidence.
On South Stream. I strongly believe that our position has been clarified to the Ukrainian side. I personally don’t really see the value added [of the South Stream project] as far as diversifying in our gas supply is concerned. And I made an earlier comment in our confidence in Ukrainian gas transmission system.