EU and Ukraine discuss how to deepen free trade

At their summit, both sides signed three agreements worth €60m in total to further boost the Kiev's resilience

Photo: EU Charles Michel and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and EU support to Ukraine, the next steps in the implementation of the Association Agreement, including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, the state of reforms that Kiev is undertaking, and the foreign and security policy were the key topics on the agenda of the EU-Ukraine Summit, held in Brussels on Tuesday afternoon.

This was the first bilateral summit held physically in Brussels since the outbreak of the pandemic and the first between the two sides with the participation of EUCO President Charles Michel and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who represented the EU Commission. From Ukrainian side took part President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The EU is, and will remain, Ukraine's biggest and most reliable partner and we want to deepen our relationship and our cooperation in combatting Covid-19 is a strong symbol of our close partnership, told the media President Michel who delivered a news conference together with Zelenskyy and Borrell.

He recalled that since 2014, the EU has mobilised more than €15bn through grants and loans to assist Ukraine in its reform efforts. “We want to deepen our relationship with Ukraine even further. Our cooperation in combatting Covid-19 has reconfirmed the solidarity and close partnership between the EU and Ukraine.”

To fight Covid-19 the EU mobilised a €190m support package in addition to the €1.2bn in macro-financial assistance, which represents the biggest backing for an EU eastern neighbour.

“Today President Zelenskyy also suggested cooperation on the production of a future vaccine. We appreciate this proposal as part of double efforts to fight the pandemic and we are ready to explore in more concrete terms how we can achieve more goals together,” EUCO head stated.

On the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, President Michel commented that it is the most ambitious that the EU has with any country. He ensured that the EU is fully committed to driving it forward, including in important areas like green and digital. Ukraine has made substantial progress in implementing this agreement, and we welcome the impressive efforts under President Zelenskyy's leadership, he stressed.

During the summit the leaders discussed the next steps to implement the pact, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. On focus was concretely how to deepen the cooperation within its framework and as President Michel stated these have “enormous potential to benefit the citizens and businesses”. Next year will be reviewed the progress made.

In a joint statement both sides agreed that strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption and vested interests was essential for investment and economic growth.

Saying that the EU will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, President Michel explained that the “EU's support to the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia remains steadfast”.

The three leaders reaffirmed their full support to the endeavours of the Normandy format, the OSCE, the Trilateral Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. They welcomed the renewed engagement by the parties at the Normandy Summit in Paris last December, and stressed the importance of implementing the measures agreed on that occasion in view of the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides, underlining Russia’s responsibility in this regard.

In the margins of the summit, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi and the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Olga Stefanishina, signed three programmes worth €60m in total to further boost the country's resilience and address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

The programme “EU4ResilientRegions”, worth €30m, aims at enhancing the resilience of eastern and southern Ukraine to the negative impacts of the ongoing conflict, including to hybrid threats and other destabilising factors. A “Civil Society Facility” programme with a budget of €20m will support the strengthening of civil society organisations capacity to participate in decision-making and public life. A €10m “Climate package for a sustainable economy” programme will support the ex-Soviet republic in finding ways to restructure its key economic sectors towards a low carbon economy.


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