European Parliament ratifies EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (17/09/2014)

The European Parliament gave its consent to the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), on Tuesday in Strasbourg. At the same time, the Agreement was also ratified by the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv.

The deal will establish a deep political association and economic integration between the EU and Ukraine and provide for mutual free market access.

MEPs backed the agreement with 535 votes in favour, 127 against and 35 abstentions.

"Through this ratification, Ukraine's European choice will be institutionalized and will bind the futures of the EU and Ukraine together. Ukrainian society has paid the highest price for its European aspirations, grieving the deaths of numerous people, suffering territorial occupation by Russia and experiencing deteriorating economic conditions. With this ratification, the EU gives Ukraine the strongest sign of support, despite the regrettable proposal to delay implementation of the agreement" said rapporteur Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP, PL) before the vote.

He added that the agreement was "not a definitive goal of EU-Ukraine relations" and stressed that the common future of the EU and Ukraine must now be protected from Russian aggression by introducing "increasingly heavy sanctions until the cost for Russia will be too high to sustain its policy".

"This is an historic moment", said EP President Martin Schulz in his address to MPs in the Strasbourg and Kiev chambers via a video link. "The two parliaments freely determined to vote today at the same time on this agreement. This is free democracy, the opposite of directed democracy. The European Parliament has always defended the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and will continue to do so", he added.

Just before the Ukraine Parliament ratified the deal, President Poroshenko said "The Ukrainians have reversed the express-train going East, and I hope that also today's vote will confirm that. Our synchronised ratifications will be a feast, not just for Ukraine but also for Europe because without Ukraine there is no united Europe. I would like to thank Europe for the support it has given us in these difficult times. At the same time I would like to address our government: the EU only asks for one thing in return from us - the reforms. I urge you not to delay them in any way".

What does the deal involve?

The deal provides both for a political association and for free trade. The political provisions take Ukraine one step closer to the EU, by opening new channels for political dialogue and establishing ground rules for cooperation in areas such as energy, transport, and education. It requires Ukraine to implement reforms and respect democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law.

Among other rules, the deal provides for greater movement of workers, sets targets for establishing a visa-free travel regime and aligning the two sides’ regulatory systems by laying down detailed timetables for Ukraine to transpose parts of the EU acquis legislation into its national laws and put them into effect.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement part substantially integrates the EU and Ukraine markets, by dismantling import duties and banning other trade restrictions, albeit with specific limitations and transitional periods in “sensitive” areas, such as trade in agricultural products. It will also partially integrate public procurement markets.

When will it take effect?

As a result of today's votes both in the EU and Ukrainian Parliament, the deal will be applied provisionally but the date still needs to be confirmed by the Council. To take full legal effect, the deal has to be ratified by the 28 EU member states. So far, it has been ratified in six member states, but several years may elapse before the process is completed in all member states.

It was planned to apply the trade rules from 1 November this year, but last Friday 12 September the EU, Ukraine and Russia agreed in talks to delay the provisional entry into effect of the trade rules until 31 December 2015.

The EU Commission says that it will continue to apply EU “autonomous trade preferences” to Ukraine, which in effect opens the EU market to Ukraine unilaterally. A decision to prolong these preferences later would need the backing of the European Parliament.