Q: How can you comment on recent increasingly frequent statements by representatives of the European Commission accusing Russia’s exercising pressure on Ukraine in order to convince it to join the Customs Union?
A: Let me say honestly, we were surprised that several high-ranking officials from the European Commission recently started to accuse our country of allegedly blackmailing Ukraine and forcing it to join the Customs Union and then the Eurasian Economic Union that is currently being established. In particular, we took note of a recent statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton following her visit to Estonia on 26 August and a statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle in Kiev on 27 August. They both argue that Russia is trying by all means to prevent Ukraine from signing an Association Agreement with the EU favourable for the country and to “drag” Kiev into the Customs Union by using threats and economic leverages.
Characteristically, the EU puts geopolitical considerations rather than interests of Ukrainian citizens at the cornerstone of its policies, and fears, as Catherine Ashton put it, “losing Ukraine”.
We would like to stress that, unlike EU politicians who never get tired of criticising any expression of interest by our neighbours towards Eurasian economic integration, we have never spoken against Ukraine’s “European choice”. Moreover, in the Declaration on Eurasian Economic Integration of 11 November 2011 the Presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in fact stated our own “European choice”, expressing willingness to strengthen comprehensive, mutually beneficial and equal-footed cooperation with the EU with a vision to establish a common economic space and harmonise integration processes in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia.
Let me also make another point. The draft Ukraine-EU Agreement recently published on the Internet makes it clear why the work of many years on this document had been kept secret from Ukrainian and international public opinion. Even a quick analysis shows that it does not contain any tangible benefits for Ukraine, but rather leads to deindustrialisation of its economy turning it de-facto into a market for EU goods.
For economists specialising in international trade it is obvious that in the short and medium term the Ukrainian population will face extremely hard times – they will have to tighten their belts even more and live in the conditions of surging unemployment and weaker trade and payment balances of the country. Independent experts estimate that the economic effect of the Agreement will be negative up until 2020, and the “manna from heaven” in form of investment, technologies, etc. promised by the EU in the long run, is not safeguarded by any concrete commitments.
It follows clearly from the Agreement that entry into force of its free trade provisions, going in the case of Ukraine far beyond obligations standard for such agreements, will result in significant deterioration of mutual trade conditions between Ukraine and Customs Union member states. Unfortunately, the CIS Free Trade Zone Agreement will not help in this case. Experts suggest that Customs Union member states may be forced to apply Annex 6 of that Agreement in order to prevent the influx to our market of goods produced in Ukraine and squeezed out of its domestic market by EU imports. And this will be all done in accordance with WTO rules.
Brussels, inspite of any arguments to the contrary, still considers and tries to convince others that the further scenario of Ukraine-Customs Union trade and economic relations development depends entirely on Russia’s goodwill. We see it as an attempt by the EU to lay the problem at someone else’s door. The above-mentioned statements by Catherine Ashton and Štefan Füle are just another proof to that.
We do not impose any decisions on Ukraine, they have to be taken by the Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian people themselves. We act in accordance with declarations by the President and Government of Ukraine of their willingness to maintain and further develop privileged and mutually beneficial economic contacts with the Customs Union member states, to enhance production cooperation with them and not to lose its share on our market. However, provisions of the Association Agreement with the EU (as it was published) do not allow that, not due to “bad will” of Moscow but due to provisions of the Agreement itself.
We call on the EU not to distort reality and not give emotional, but rather balanced and economically sound evaluations of social and economic development scenarios for Ukraine after the signature of the Association Agreement.
29 August 2013