EU-UKRAINE COOPERATION COUNCIL, SIXTEENTH MEETING (26/06/2013)
The sixteenth EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council was held on 24 June in Luxembourg.
The Cooperation Council provided an opportunity to take stock of key developments in Ukraine and in EU-Ukraine relations, including in the framework of the Eastern Partnership, since the 25 February 2013 EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels, and to ensure political steer and appropriate follow up in the implementation of the 10 December 2012 Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council on Ukraine.
In this context, the Cooperation Council welcomed Ukraine's European choice and focused particular attention on Ukraine's progress in the three areas - follow-up actions to the 2012 parliamentary elections, addressing the issue of selective justice and preventing its recurrence, and implementing reforms defined in the jointly agreed Association Agenda - with a view to the shared objective of the possible signing of the Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in November. The signature and the implementation of the Agreement would represent a major leap in EU-Ukraine relations. Re-enforced efforts by Ukraine to demonstrate determined action and achieve tangible progress on all benchmarks will be critical for preparing for the assessment and comprehensive debate by the Foreign Affairs Council in early autumn on the possible signing of the Agreement.
The Cooperation Council noted the steps taken by Ukraine to ensure follow up to the EU's benchmarks, the release of Mr Lutsenko, and the restoration of Mr Filipchuk's rights, the recent opinions of the Venice Commission on the draft changes to the Constitution with a view to strengthening the independence of judges, improve the legislation for parliamentary elections as well as on the legislation on referenda. It also noted the proposals adopted by the European Commission on 15 May for Council Decisions on the Signing and Provisional Application, and on the conclusion, of the Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These proposals represent an important technical step to enable the EU to sign the Agreement, but do not prejudge the final political decision. The Cooperation Council endorsed the updates to the EU-Ukraine Association Agenda.
The EU stressed the need for Ukraine to achieve tangible progress on all the benchmarks with a renewed sense of urgency. It put particular emphasis on addressing the outstanding case of selective justice and preventing any recurrence of selective justice by a comprehensive judicial reform in line with European standards. In this context, the important contribution of the European Parliament's monitoring mission to Ukraine headed by former Presidents Cox and Kwaśniewski was highlighted. Ukraine needed to take into account the recent opinions by the Venice Commission and to seek its assessment on other important reforms, notably the reform of the functioning of the General Prosecutor’s Office and of the Criminal Code.
The two sides also discussed the follow up to the shortcomings observed in the 28 October 2012 parliamentary elections, including related to the impossibility to establish results in five single mandate constituencies as well as the situation regarding local elections for Kyiv. Prime attention needs to be given to the consideration of an Election Code as a means to ensure that uniform procedures in line with the European standards are applied to all types of elections. The electoral reform needed to be prepared on the basis of open and inclusive discussions with the political parties, NGOs and experts. Discussing the political situation in Ukraine and the importance of political responsibility for Ukraine's modernization, the EU side emphasized that the parliamentary majority needed to create an environment conducive for dialogue as much as the opposition needed to engage constructively on EU related reforms and actions. The European agenda could and should be a consolidating and uniting factor in domestic politics.
The Cooperation Council stressed the importance of enhancing people-to-people contacts. It welcomed the recent conclusion of the amended Visa Facilitation Agreement allowing the agreement to enter into force on 1 July 2013. Taking stock of the state of play in the implementation of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation, it welcomed the recent legislative efforts of the Government and the Verkhovna Rada and discussed some of the remaining issues to be followed up by Ukraine.
The Cooperation Council reviewed trade, investment and business climate issues and discussed strategic cooperation in key sectoral areas: energy, transport, including common aviation area, and environment. The EU stressed its expectations as regards the improvement of the business climate in Ukraine. In this context, the EU reiterated its concerns about recent protectionist measures and expressed its confidence that Ukraine will eventually be able to deliver a satisfactory solution to trade and investments irritants. The EU continues to support the modernisation of the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System and underlined the need for energy sector reforms to continue in line with Ukraine's Energy Community commitments. The EU insisted on the importance of adopting a public finance management reform strategy and reversing the backsliding on public procurement.
The Cooperation Council discussed a number of international and regional issues, including in the context of Ukraine's priorities as Chairman in Office of the OSCE. There was a common assessment of the recent developments in the Transnistrian file. There was a common concern regarding the Transnistrian de facto authorities' so-called legal act on the border and a convergence of views on the need to continue to work in a constructive spirit within the framework of the '5+2' negotiating process.
The Cooperation Council looked forward to the strengthening of the Eastern Partnership initiative in the run-up to the 2013 Eastern Partnership summit.
The EU was represented by Eamon Gilmore, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Ireland and Mr Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov led the Ukrainian delegation.