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END NOTE: EU, UKRAINE HOLD ANNUAL SUMMIT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS APPEAL TO RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT OVER DAM CONSTRUCTION... The Verkhovna Rada adopted a statement on 14 October appealing to the Russian Federal Assembly to intervene in the construction of a dam between Russia's Taman Peninsula and Ukraine's Tuzla islet in the Kerch Strait (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 October 2003) to prevent any "unilateral actions" that might contradict "the principles of good neighborliness and the spirit of strategic partnership" between Ukraine and Russia, Interfax and UNIAN reported. The Ukrainian legislature pledged "to initiate all measures envisaged by norms of the international law to protect the sovereignty of the [Ukrainian] state on its territory" if the dam project is continued. Kyiv has reportedly sent a reinforced border-guard unit to Tuzla and installed antitank defenses facing the dam construction, which has come to within 1 kilometer of the island (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2003). JM
...AS FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS MOSCOW PRESSURING KYIV OVER BORDER TALKS. Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Motsyk told the Verkhovna Rada on 14 October that Russia's construction of the dike in Kerch Strait is apparently intended to influence Russian-Ukrainian talks on the delimitation of the border in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, Interfax reported. "In our opinion, attempts by the neighboring state at exerting such influence only obstruct the further progress of the talks," Motsyk added. He said Kyiv wants to divide the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait into areas forming national waters of each state, whereas Moscow wants to leave the Azov Sea "for joint use" by Russia and Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is scheduled to met with his Ukrainian counterpart Kostyantyn Hryshchenko in Kyiv on 30 October to discuss the sea-border delimitation. JM
UKRAINE, LIBYA SIGN NINE AGREEMENTS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma visited Libya on 11-14 October, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The two sides signed nine accords and memorandums, including on cooperation in science and technology, geological research, banking, and oil extraction. JM
EU, UKRAINE HOLD ANNUAL SUMMIT
The EU and Ukraine held their seventh annual summit on 7-8 October in Yalta. The EU is expected to accept 10 new members next year and a further two to three countries -- Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia -- in 2007. The EU's new neighbors in the western Balkans and Turkey are also on a medium-term membership track if they implement deeper reforms.
In contrast, the EU has not offered future membership to the four western CIS countries -- Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine -- which also lie geographically in Europe and are therefore theoretically eligible to seek EU membership themselves under Article 49 of the EU Treaty, which allows any European state to join. Of the four western CIS states, only Ukraine and Moldova seek EU membership, with Ukraine also additionally seeking NATO membership.
The summit issued a 26-point joint statement that covered a wide range of issues, including next year's expected EU enlargement; EU assistance to Ukraine; implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement; and regional conflicts in Bosnia, Moldova, Iraq, and Israel-Palestine.
The statement also focused upon concrete policies that Ukraine should be working upon. These areas include reform of the judiciary and "strengthening and ensuring stability of democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for human rights." These political areas are precisely where Ukraine has regressed during Leonid Kuchma's second term in office since 1999. Jan Virsma, head of the EU's delegation to Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, said in an interview in "Zerkalo Nedeli" on the eve of the summit that Ukraine's current leaders are not interested in pursuing reforms or rule of law.
In contrast to these political areas where Ukraine has fared badly, the statement recognized "progress" in the implementation of economic reform and Ukraine's stable economic growth. Nevertheless, the statement continued to point to the need for further tax and banking reform, and the strengthening of the independence of the National Bank.
Ukraine's ruling elite has fewer problems in pursuing economic reform, as they are the winners in the transition from communism. As for the National Bank, its independence is in jeopardy under its new chairman, Serhiy Tyhipko, who is also head of one of the three main oligarch parties, Labor Ukraine.
The statement also stressed the need for reform of the energy sector. This was most vigorously pursued under the Viktor Yushchenko government in 1999-2001, a factor that led to growing oligarch criticism and the government's dismissal in April 2001. Former head of Naftohaz Ukrayiny Ihor Bakay has admitted that most Ukrainian oligarchs made their capital in the 1990s from the resale of Russian energy. Energy reform is not likely to be seriously pursued while the head of the presidential administration is Viktor Medvedchuk, whose Social Democratic Party-united party is widely believed to financially gain the most from corrupt energy deals.
The statement raised the importance of the further development of the Eurasian oil transportation corridor, which would bring Azerbaijani Caspian oil to Poland and Western Europe. Ukraine has completed the construction of the Odesa-Brody pipeline, which links the Black Sea to the former "Druzhba" pipeline. But Russia is intensively lobbying for the new pipeline to work in reverse by bringing Russian oil from Brody to Odesa, a step the EU (and the United States) have warned against.
President Kuchma's exasperation over the EU's reluctance to offer Ukraine the prospect of future membership is one factor behind his promotion of the CIS Single Economic Space (EEP) just prior to the summit. As Kuchma bemoaned, "How much longer can we be kept on the doorstep [of the EU]? None of the [EU] officials have said Ukraine is wanted in the EU." The EEP was only briefly mentioned in one sentence in the 12th point of the post-summit statement. The EU believes that as long as the EEP does not evolve from the level of a free-trade zone it will not create a barrier to Ukraine's integration into the EU, whereas the EU would view an EEP Customs Union more negatively.
In May, Kuchma optimistically predicted that Ukraine would be offered EU associate membership at the October summit, presumably because he would like to claim credit for obtaining associate member EU status in his second term in office. On the eve of the summit, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyi repeated the claim that associate membership is being discussed by the EU.
However, this statement proved to be premature, as European Commission President Romano Prodi and current EU President and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed at the summit the hope that Ukraine could join the EU in the future, without mentioning a specific time frame.
But Dr. Dov Lynch, a research fellow at the EU's Institute for Security Studies, warned: "The EU must follow political developments very closely over the next few months until the elections. 2004 is a turning point in Ukrainian politics and the EU must ensure that it is the right turning point, one that moves Ukraine closer to realizing its European ambitions than it has until now." Dr. Lynch continued: "Political declarations of support for free and fair elections, technical assistance to ensure that these are fulfilled, tacit warnings of what might happen to the relationship are required from Brussels. EU attention on Ukraine must be firm and steady. Ukraine must ensure that the elections are free and fair and that their results are respected to the highest degree."
The summit statement also raised the question of the EU's deeper involvement in supporting Ukrainian reforms through its "Wider Europe" initiative launched in March. Progress in justice and home affairs is already evident in areas such as controlling illegal migration, strengthening border controls, and the struggle against organized crime and corruption.
Dr. Lynch emphasized: "The Wider Europe initiative is a pledge of greater EU attention, energy, money, and time devoted to Ukraine. The methodology of the initiative, namely the Action Plans, as part of the Wider Europe initiative, will require Brussels to become far more deeply engaged in Ukrainian affairs, and to work far more closely with the Ukrainian authorities themselves." If Ukraine treats these Action Plans seriously, as it has with its Action Plan with NATO, then this could open "a new horizon for cooperation with the EU," which "is a pledge that with work and effort the door for far greater ties will be open." Poland and Hungary assuaged Ukraine's fears about the Schengen agreement blocking access to the EU when both countries agreed to introduce visa-free travel from 1 October.
Despite this progress, membership of the EU is still not on the horizon for Ukraine. Nevertheless, EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen told the "Financial Times" of 10 October that "Wider Europe is not about putting EU membership on the agenda for these countries."