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Commissioner and European Parliament: EU support to Ukraine hinges on reform progress

Commissioner and European Parliament: EU support to Ukraine hinges on reform progress

The EU remains firmly committed to developing relations with Ukraine, “but we cannot realise the full potential of our relations yet,” Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Commissioner Štefan Füle has told Members of the European Parliament.

The Commissioner recalled the Conclusions on Ukraine, adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council earlier this week, which set out a number of benchmarks to measure Ukraine's progress in areas defined as vital for opening the way for the signature of the Association Agreement, namely:
·   the compliance of the 2012 parliamentary elections with international standards and follow-up actions to remedy any shortcomings;
·   Ukraine’s progress in addressing the issue of selective justice and preventing its recurrence;
·   headway in implementing the reforms defined in the jointly agreed Association Agenda.
“We are not imposing additional hurdles, but at the same time we are not compromising on our values,” the Commissioner underlined.
As regards the recent parliamentary elections, the EU is concerned over a mixed picture they presented and “a deterioration in several areas compared to standards previously achieved,” Füle said, adding it was essential that Ukraine’s authorities fully took on board the recommendations of the forthcoming final report by the OSCE-ODIHR and addressed the observed shortcomings.
The Commissioner said a reliable electoral system based on an Electoral Code and clear rules on balanced media access for electoral competitor were the top priorities for Ukraine.
Füle also urged the Ukrainian authorities to address the issues of selective justice, citing the cases of ex-Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko and other members of the former government such as Yuriy Lutsenko. He said “the judiciary in Ukraine is suffering from a systemic problem which will require a systemic solution in the form of a comprehensive judicial reform.”
Turning to the Association Agenda, the Commissioner stressed the need for Ukraine to “pay particular attention to the business and investment climate,” calling for inclusive reforms through constructive engagement between Government, parliamentary opposition and civil society.
The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, could be signed as soon as Ukraine demonstrates determined action and tangible progress in these three areas, possibly by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013, the Commissioner said. “The Association Agreement is not a moving target,” said Füle, stressing that Ukraine would have the EU’s support “in order not to deviate from its choice for long-term modernity and highest political and legal standards.”
Štefan Füle also touched upon the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation as another very important instrument in EU-Ukraine relations.
The Commssioner concluded by saying “the ball is clearly in Ukraine’s court - if it wants to score by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit, it needs to play well and keep an eye on the clock.” 
In a separate development, the European Parliament has confirmed the EU’s commitment to signing the Association Agreement with Ukraine, possibly in time for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013, but only if the country demonstrates tangible progress towards democratic principles, rule of law, independence of the judiciary and media freedom.

In a resolution adopted today, MEPs voiced regret that the 2012 parliamentary elections, which were to be "a key test" for Ukraine’s development into fully‑fledged democracy, failed to meet international standards and were "a step backwards" compared to previous elections.
And yet MEPs supported the European aspirations of the Ukrainian people and warned against attempts to isolate Ukraine, which could lead to "favourable conditions for undemocratic regimes". The EU remains committed to working with Ukraine, they said, to help it improve democratic institutions and advance essential reforms.


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