Ukrainian president asks EU for ‘clear’ membership plan

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on the European Union to offer the country a “clear plan” and that the goal of membership remains both logical and realistic.

“We do not expect cast-iron EU membership commitments. What we do want is a clear plan, produced together with our European partners, that offers a step-by-step guide to making this happen as soon as possible,” said Mr Zelensky after the last EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels on October 6 – the EU’s first bilateral summit since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The EU has been the largest external donor to Ukraine during the crisis, mobilising a relief package worth 190 million euros and 1.2 billion euros in the form of macro-financial assistance, support that EU claims goes “far beyond” what any other partner has provided.

During the summit, both the Ukrainian president and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, welcomed the results that have been achieved since the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

Both leaders underlined the success of the agreement, which has boosted bilateral trade by about 65 per cent since January 2016.

“The Association Agreement signed six years ago remains a landmark document for both parties,” said Mr Zelensky. “Thanks to the free trade component of the Association Agreement, more than 40 per cent of Ukraine’s trade is now with the EU, a figure that comfortably makes the European Union Ukraine’s main trading partner. There is still considerable room for growth. Ukraine itself is growing. Our businesses are becoming more internationally attractive. They are ready to play a much bigger role in Europe.”

“The EU and Ukraine share the values of democracy, which are being translated into concrete structural reforms. Ukraine’s decentralisation, electoral reform, and land and banking reforms represent important recent achievements,” added Mr Michel.

The EU also used the summit to reaffirm its support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, the militarisation of the peninsula and the severe deterioration of the human rights situation in areas not under the control of the Ukrainian government.

Both leaders called for the release of all illegally detained and imprisoned Ukrainian citizens in Crimea and Russia, including Crimean Tatar activists. In September, the EU extended sanctions targeting persons and entities that continue to undermine or threaten the territorial integrity of Ukraine until March 2021.

“I hope the European Union will play an active role in Ukraine’s drive for a new international platform to end the occupation of Crimea. Despite vocal international opposition to Russia’s 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula, we still lack a coherent strategy or effective framework for efforts to return Crimea to Ukraine,” said Mr Zelensky.

Mr Zelensky flew from Brussels to London, where he signed a memorandum with Britain to secure 1.25 billion UK pounds to build new military vessels for the Ukrainian Navy, as well as a post-Brexit Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership deal to strengthen UK cooperation in political, security and foreign matters with Ukraine, while also securing continued preferential trade for businesses and consumers.

“Whether it’s our defence support, stabilisation efforts, humanitarian assistance or close cooperation on political issues, our message is clear: we are utterly committed to upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after meeting with Mr Zelensky at 10 Downing Street.

As part of the visit, Britain also announced five million UK pounds of humanitarian aid to support communities in eastern Ukraine who have been affected by ongoing conflict and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ukraine’s stability is vital for Europe’s security,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. “Providing this humanitarian aid and signing the Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement is a clear demonstration of the UK’s commitment to Ukraine’s prosperity and security.”

The UK also agreed to increase its support for the work of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission, who report on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including ceasefire violations and the impact on civilians.

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