Trump’s Russia policy looms large over up­com­ing EU-Ukraine sum­mit

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The EU-Ukraine 18th sum­mit to be held on Thurs­day is expected to dis­cuss the con­se­quences of an expected dis­tanc­ing of Washington from Kiev, and the need for Brus­sels to do more in as­sist­ing the pro-Western govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko.

Speak­ing to the press on Tues­day, EU diplo­mats said that although they can­not pre-judge what lead­ers will dis­cuss, it was ob­vi­ous that the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, whose man­date be­gins on Jan­uary 20, would fea­ture high in the talks.

“I don’t want to spec­u­late about the fu­ture US policy visà-vis Ukraine,” a diplo­mat said. But he im­me­di­ately pointed to what the EU’s for­eign af­fairs chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini said in her blog fol­low­ing the US elec­tions: that more and more, the EU will have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to play the role of an “in­dis­pens­able power” for peace and se­cu­rity in its re­gion and the world.

Ukrainian officials have ex­pressed con­cern that less US sup­port for their coun­try un­der the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion could re­sult in fur­ther desta­bil­i­sa­tion of the re­gion, which would have worse con­se­quences for other parts of the world.

Many take a pes­simistic view that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin will feel em­bold­ened af­ter Trump’s vic­tory to re-es­tab­lish a sphere of in­flu­ence in the states that sit be­tween the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion and NATO. In var­i­ous com­ments, Trump has in­di­cated that he is will­ing to ac­cept that Russia should have its “buf­fers”.

Kiev and some of its in­ter­na­tional sup­port­ers fear Trump will seek a “grand bar­gain” with Putin to im­prove USRus­sian re­la­tions, sac­ri­fic­ing Ukraine in the process, ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Times.

EU diplo­mats said the re­la­tions with Ukraine had now be­come im­por­tant in a global con­text. That’s why, he added, the EU will work to sort out the is­sue of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the EU-Ukraine as­so­ci­a­tion agreement shortly.

On April 6, Dutch vot­ers re­jected the EU-Ukraine as­so­ci­a­tion agreement, which is cou­pled with a “Deep and Com­pre­hen­sive Free Trade Agreement” (DCFTA). The Dutch govern­ment is try­ing to un­block the sit­u­a­tion, as all other EU coun­tries have rat­i­fied the agreement. A so­lu­tion is expected at the De­cem­ber 15-16 EU sum­mit.

The DCFTA pro­vi­sion­ally en­tered into force on Jan­uary 1 this year. An­a­lysts say it has al­ready pro­duced tan­gi­ble re­sults and Ukrainian ex­ports to the EU are re­ported to have in­creased since by 5.5%.

“The mem­ber states will work in­ten­sively with the Ukrainian side to get the is­sue of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the agreement sorted, be­cause it is true that in times of change and devel­op­ment, you shouldn’t cre­ate ad­di­tional un­cer­tainty,” the diplo­mat said.

Poroshenko will first meet



hour with

the pres­i­dents of the three Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions – Jean-Claude Juncker for the Com­mis­sion, Don­ald Tusk for the Coun­cil and Martin Schulz for the Par­lia­ment. Af­ter that, the sum­mit it­self will take place, in the form of a lunch. An ex­cep­tion­ally high num­ber of Com­mis­sion­ers are expected around the ta­ble: for­eign af­fairs Fed­er­ica Mogherini, En­ergy Union chief Maros Se­f­covic, Euro chief Valdis Dom­brovskis, Neigh­bour­hood Com­mis­sioner Jo­hannes Hahn, Trade Com­mis­sioner Ce­cilia Malm­strom and Home Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Dim­itris Avramopou­los.

Among the is­sues dis­cussed will be the Win­ter Pack­age for 2016-2017, which the EU is ea­ger to help con­clude to guar­an­tee gas sup­plies to the Union, de­spite the re­luc­tance of Kiev.

“Vice Pres­i­dent Se­f­covic has been push­ing the sides to en­gage in fu­ture talks,” the diplo­mat said. Se­f­covic is due to meet with Rus­sian En­ergy Min­is­ter Alexan­der No­vak on November 25 in Moscow.

An­other is­sue is mov­ing for­ward with the ef­fort to lift the visa bar­rier for Ukraine cit­i­zens to the Schen­gen bor­der­less space. The Par­lia­ment and the Coun­cil have ap­proved the Com­mis­sion’s pro­posal for visa-free travel for the Ukraini­ans, for stays of not more than 90 days in any 180-day pe­riod, as all re­quire­ments had been met.

How­ever, diplo­mats ex­plained that the fi­nal de­ci­sion was linked to the adop­tion of a “sus­pen­sion mech­a­nism” to be used in case of mas­sive abuse of the visa-free travel. The mech­a­nism will ap­ply for other non-EU coun­tries as well.

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