BRUSSELS, May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
The European Union is taking necessary steps to be technically ready to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine later this year after the European Commission supported a proposal on the issue, passing the decision on to the European Council, which comprises the 27 EU member states, for a final decision.
This means a signing ceremony by the two parties at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November is now a step closer to reality.
"Today's decision of the European Commission is recognition of the progress that has recently been made by Ukraine in the context of the EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of December 10, 2012," said Ukraine's representative to the EU, Kostiantyn Yeliseyev.
The EC recommendation comes at a time of accelerated bi-lateral contacts between Brussels and Kiev and stipulates that Ukraine must meet the criteria set out by the EU Council in December of 2012. The recommendation recognizes that Ukraine is positively engaged in activity designed to comply with conditions set out by the European Council of Ministers in December of last year.
In the last 5 months, Ukraine has taken both legislative and regulatory actions aimed at modernizing Ukrainian laws to conform to European standards, including its criminal and tax codes and improvements to the electoral law. Recently, Ukraine has completed passing the first phase legislation in support of a simpler visa regime (approved by Council of the European Union this week) and adopted a tough new anti-discrimination law in line with European norms and practices.
The European Commission said in a statement: "Today's adoption of the two proposals for Council Decision technically enables the EU to move ahead with the required preparatory arrangements without pre-empting any decision."
"It is now up to the Ukrainian authorities to address the outstanding issues in order to enable the signing of the Agreement."
The green light from the EC comes on the heels of a strong endorsement by Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kozhara. "The UK continues to believe strongly that Ukraine belongs to the European family of states," Hague said in a statement.
Any signature in November would have to be ratified by all 27 national governments of the EU, which could take a further six months. But Ukraine has the benefit of being subject to a "provisional application" which means the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Zone - the centrepiece of the economic integration process - would come into effect pending ratification.
This has been labelled in Brussels "EU accession-lite", and will fast-track the economic benefits of having Ukraine closer to Europe.
SOURCE Ukraine Monitor