Ukraine To Push For EU Agreement Signing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine plans a push on Wednesday towards signing a landmark agreement with the European Union by scheduling a debate in the government and sending a senior official to Brussels.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov

The agreement on political association and free trade is supposed to be approved by the government before it can be signed in November.

“Tomorrow the government will debate and approve the agreement,” Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said.

“At least I, as the prime minister, will propose to approve it.”

At the same time, Andriy Kliuyev, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, a top security body under President Viktor Yanukovych, will travel to Brussels for key meetings over the agreements.

Kliuyev is supposed to meet Martin Schultz, the president of European Parliament, Pawel Kowal, MP and the head of the committee on Ukraine ties, and Hannes Swoboda, and MP and the head of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, according to a report by his press service.

This is the second visit by Kliuyev to Brussels in less than a month, underscoring the country’s foreign policy priorities.

“We have to go through quite a difficult path of cooperation, but we are optimistic about the process,” Azarov said.

“For us this is a historic event of huge importance.”

Ukraine was a step closer towards signing the agreement with the EU after Parliament voted on September 5 to approve the first set of required bills.

The ruling Regions Party and opposition groups joined forces in overwhelmingly supporting the bills, some in the first reading, with some bills still requiring approval from the Constitutional Court.

The bills were earlier designated by the European Union as important for Ukraine to sign political association and free trade agreements at a summit in Vilnius November 28-29.

The bills approved include legislation that stipulates milder regulations in prisons allowing inmates more frequent family visits, the freedom to use mobile phones and cash, and to wear civilian clothes.

Other bills seek to reform customs tariffs and stricter implementation of court decisions.

Meanwhile, at least one bill has failed to gain traction with lawmakers.

The bill, aimed at eliminating discrimination against homosexuals, has failed to win backing from the ruling Regions Party.

Lawmakers, citing poor support for the bill among the people, were supposed to send a team to Brussels to try to renegotiate it.

The developments come amid threats from Moscow that Russia will restrict imports of good and products from Ukraine if Kiev signs the agreements with Brussels. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been persuading Ukraine to instead join the Customs Union, a trade bloc of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Leonid Kozhara, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said the signing of the agreements will strengthen security in the region by improving cooperation between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.

“Once Ukraine and the EU sign the agreement this will be an important factor for security in the Eastern European region,” Kozhara said.

“In the future, of course, it will promote harmonization of relations in the triangle of the EU-Ukraine-Russia.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal