Commission counters Ukraine complaints
Today @ 17:44 CETEUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Ukraine does not have to choose between Brussels and Moscow and the EU is committed to helping it financially, the European Commission said on Friday (30 April) after Kiev voiced criticism of EU policy.
"We believe positions and statements creating the impression that countries in the region need to choose between Brussels and Moscow are not helpful," Angela Filote, the spokeswoman for enlargement and neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele, said during a regular press briefing in the EU capital.
"We do not believe they [the Ukrainian comments] reflect the intensity of our relation with Ukraine and our ambition for the future of our relation with Ukraine. We are currently negotiating an ambitious Association Agreement with Ukraine that we hope to be able to conclude in about a year, we are now preparing macro-financial assistance [worth] €610 million and since 1991 we have invested more than €3 billion in this country," she said.
During his visit to Kiev, Mr Fuele gave the Ukrainian government a list of 18 reforms it is to make and the concrete response the EU would make to each move, including financial aid. The list is designed to pave the way for the Association Agreement.
The reasoning behind the list is to make sure that Ukraine's Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych, who recently agreed to let Russia keep its navy in the Crimea until 2042, actually begins to implement pro-EU reforms.
Ukraine wants to seal the deal on the Association Agreement by the end of this year and sees the requirements as "extra hurdles" that will delay EU aid payments all the more.
"People in my leadership are extremely pragmatic. If we don't have real deliverables from contacts with the EU and we just see more and more pre-conditions, of course we will have closer business relations with countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus," Ukraine's deputy foreign minister Konstantin Yeliseyev told EUobserver in a phone interview on Wednesday.
He also said that Brussels' version of the Association Agreement is designed to open Ukraine's market to EU companies while keeping the single market fenced off in a "selfish" scheme.
Mr Yanukovych came to power earlier this year and chose to go to Brussels for his first foreign trip in a symbolic move. The naval deal with Russia, which saw violent protests in the Ukrainian parliament, indicated the depth of his attachment to Moscow, however.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed that his country's gas giant Gazprom should merge with Ukraine's state gas concern Naftogaz.
Mr Putin made the proposal at a televised meeting on Friday while hosting a Ukrainian delegation in Sochi, the Associated Press reports.
He said that Russian bank VTB may issue a $500 million (€376 million) loan to Ukraine's government to facilitate the deal.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller was quoted as saying officials were considering an asset swap with Naftogaz, which he called practically the same thing as a merger.