The European Parliament has prepared a new report on the implementation of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, in which it has assessed prospects for Ukraine's EU membership and the status of Ukrainian reforms.
Some 526 MEPs voted for the report, while 79 were against, another 71 MEPs abstained.
The previous time a similar report was approved by the European Parliament way back in 2018. The document contains a number of conclusions regarding Ukraine. In particular it highlights corruption, the crisis around the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the situation in Donbas, and Ukraine's European prospects.
Prospects for Ukraine's membership in the EU
It says that the European Parliament does not recognize Ukraine's prospects for EU membership, not wishing to make it hope for early accession to the Union. This is due to the fact that in the near future neither Ukraine nor the EU will be ready for this. At the same time, the European Parliament adheres to the opinion that Ukrainians should be given a realistic goal.
"Ukraine has a European perspective pursuant to Article 49 of the TEU [Treaty on European Union] and may apply to become a member of the Union provided that it adheres to all of the Copenhagen criteria and the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms, human and minority rights, and upholds the rule of law," the report says.
Some MEPs wanted to delete this clause, but 82 parliamentarians voted for that step, while 575 were against.
Review of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement
The European Parliament notes the significant progress of Ukraine in the implementation of the agreement on association and integration into the EU, and also calls on Kyiv to fully implement the agreement and use its potential. The report also "recalls the necessity for the AA/DCFTA to be updated, to take due account of the evolution of the regulatory frameworks and economic development needs, and to strengthen monitoring mechanisms."
Ukraine and the EU agreed to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the association agreement this year. The European Parliament advises, within the framework of this assessment, to update the provisions concerning trade and sectoral integration of Ukraine into the EU. In particular this concerns digital economy, energy and the fight against climate change.
In addition, according to MEPs, the European Commission and international financial organizations should make Ukraine a detailed "a detailed, conditional and tailor-made economic and investment proposal" to overcome the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fight against corruption in Ukraine
The European Parliament recalled that the level of political, technical and financial support for Ukraine from the EU would depend on "the extent to which it fulfils the commitments it has made to the Union and its Member States, especially as regards the reform process, respect for human rights, minorities and fundamental freedoms, and the establishment of a genuine and effective rule of law."
It says that despite notable progress, widespread corruption continues to hinder the reform process.
One of the toughest points in the report concerns the oligarchy. The European Parliament expressed "its utmost concern about apparent attempts by vested interests to undermine the country's achievements in the fight against corruption and overall democratic reforms, in particular through the recapturing of political power by some Ukrainian oligarchs, which has served to weaken the reform-oriented majority in the Verkhovna Rada."
However, MEPs also saw a positive moment. They praised the relaunch of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), first judgements handed down by the High Anti-Corruption Court and its respect of "high professional standards." MEPs are also pleased with the work of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), "which is arguably the country's most effective anti-corruption institution."
MEPs recognized the constitutional crisis around the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU) as one of the threats to the ability of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Verkhovna Rada to carry out reforms.
The European Parliament recognizes "the active efforts initiated by President Zelensky and taken by political stakeholders to restore legislation and the credibility of the Ukrainian anti-corruption architecture," the report says.
Notably, this clause, which was proposed by Lithuanian MEP Petras Aushtrevičius, turned out to be the most controversial in the session hall. As a result, it was backed by 334 MEPs, while 322 voted against.
The European Parliament says it regrets that the judicial system has one of the lowest levels of trust in Ukraine. Therefore, MEPs call on the Ukrainian authorities to speed up its reform and fight corruption, including in the judiciary.
Developments in Donbas
The European Parliament condemns the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the de facto occupation of part of Donbas, and also calls on Russia to withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine.
MEPs noted that sanctions against Russia should remain in effect until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented and Ukraine's territorial integrity is restored within its internationally recognized borders. The EU should be ready to tighten sanctions against the Russian Federation if necessary.
The European Parliament points out the importance of creating new sites for the disengagement of forces in Donbas, as well as opening new points of entry and exit along the contact line.
The report underlines that "the conditions for free and fair elections in Donetsk and Luhansk have not been met in the current situation."
The report also "acknowledges the unique experience and expertise of Ukraine, and welcomes Ukraine's participation in common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions, battlegroups and operations, its contributions to EU Battle Groups and its increasing alignment with EU statements and declarations on international and regional issues, as well as its contributions, and congratulates Ukraine on its new NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner status."
EU-Ukraine Association Agreement
- In 2014, the European Union and Ukraine signed an Association Agreement, which marked the beginning of a new period in the development of relations between the EU and Ukraine.
- On September 1, 2017, the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU entered into force in full in terms of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU. Prior to that, it had been applied on an interim basis since 2016.
- The agreement is a key tool for closer rapprochement between Ukraine and the European Union: it contributes to deeper political relations, stronger economic ties, and mutual respect for common values.
- The Association Agreement's economic provisions on the deep and comprehensive free trade area gives Ukraine an opportunity to expand trade relations and economic development, as it opens up new markets, contributes to the adaptation of legislation, standards, and regulations in various sectors. The latter will help incorporate EU standards in key sectors of the Ukrainian economy.