Tuesday April 21, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
14o C
09o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
EU signs trade agreement with Ukraine, draws Russian threat

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, center, poses with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, left, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy at the EU Council in Brussels on Friday.

By Adrian Croft & Robin Emmott

Ukraine signed on Friday an historic free-trade agreement with the European Union that has been at the heart of months of violence and upheaval in the country, drawing an immediate threat of "grave consequences" from Russia.

Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals, holding out the prospect of deep economic integration and unfettered access to the EU's 500 million citizens, but alarming Moscow which is concerned about losing influence over former Soviet republics.

All three countries have made clear their ultimate goal is membership of the bloc but Brussels, under pressure from voters weary of further EU expansion, has made no promise it will allow them in.

Ukraine's former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on signing the EU agreement last November in favour of closer ties with Moscow, prompting months of street protests that eventually led to his fleeing the country.

Soon afterwards, Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, drawing outrage and sanctions from the United States and EU, and pro-Russian separatists began an uprising in eastern Ukraine that has claimed hundreds of lives.

"Over the last months, Ukraine paid the highest possible price to make her European dreams come true," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told EU leaders at a signing ceremony in Brussels, calling it the most important day for his country since independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991.

Symbolically, he signed the agreement with the same pen that had been prepared for Yanukovich to sign the document last year.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin immediately said the signing would have "grave consequences" for Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.

Sergei Glazyev, a senior adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, described Ukraine on Thursday as a fascist regime, accusing EU leaders of creating a "Nazi Frankenstein".

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted on Friday by Interfax as saying Glazyev’s comments "do not reflect the official point of view".

Russian response

Still, Peskov said Russia would take measures to protect its economy if it is negatively affected by the agreements, RIA news agency said.

"As soon as the implementation starts, there can be talk of some protective measures," he said. "Everything needed to protect our economy will be undertaken."

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said there was nothing in the agreements that would harm Russia in any way.

Poroshenko urged the EU to reward Ukraine for its sacrifices by promising the country would be eligible for membership of the EU once it was ready. The pledge would "cost the EU nothing but would mean the world to my country", he said.

Van Rompuy said the agreements with the three countries were "not the final stage of our cooperation", but this fell short of the prospect of ultimate EU membership.

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca has also set his sights on EU membership, saying on Thursday that he hoped his country would apply to join in the second half of 2015.

Russia, which fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008, has met previous attempts by its neighbours to move closer to the EU with trade reprisals and EU officials fear the same thing could happen again.

EU officials say that, in diplomatic talks, Russia has threatened to withdraw the duty-free treatment that Ukraine currently benefits from as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) free trade pact.

One senior EU official called the Russian threat "deeply shocking" while another said such a move would violate the CIS agreement and World Trade Organisation rules.

If Russia imposed customs duties, it would put at risk some of Ukraine's exports, which mainly consist of base metals, grains, machinery, equipment and processed food. Ukraine sends 24 percent of its exports to Russia, worth $15 billion a year.

Russian fears

Moscow fears that an influx of EU products into Ukraine will lead Kiev to dump its own production in Russia. It is also concerned that Ukraine may re-export EU products into Russia, avoiding duties that Russia imposes to protect its own output.

Last year, Russia briefly imposed onerous customs checks at the Ukraine border and responded to Moldova's overtures to Brussels by cutting off imports of Moldovan wine.

Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Kiev last week after Ukraine failed to pay its gas debts.

The EU and Ukraine had already signed parts of the agreement dealing with political cooperation in March, but the more significant economic chapters were left to be signed now, after presidential elections.

The EU exported 23.9 billion euros ($33 billion) of goods to Ukraine in 2013 and imported 13.8 billion worth, EU data shows.

As part of the deal, the EU will insist that Ukraine meet its standards on human rights and democracy, fights corruption, strengthens the rule of law and reforms its economy. [Reuters]
 

ekathimerini.com , Friday June 27, 2014 (15:13)  
Greek governments popularity takes a hit as talks drag on
No ferries on Labor Day as seamen take industrial action
Two men accused of migrant smuggling face prosecutor over deadly shipwreck
Minister scraps most civil service assessment measures in new draft bill
ECB studying curbs on Greek bank support
The European Central Bank is studying measures to rein in Emergency Liquidity Assistance to Greek banks, as resistance to further aiding the countrys stricken lenders grows in the Governing...
Greek markets slide on reports ECB planning to restrict bank funding
Greek bank shares slid and the country's government bond yields rose on Tuesday as more details emerged on a European Central Bank proposal to increase the insurance it would demand in retur...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Panathinaikos recovers to beat CSKA for 2-1
Three-pointer master Panathinaikos had the last laugh at the end of Game 3 of its series with CSKA Moscow on Monday winning 86-85 and reducing the Russians' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five p...
GYMNASTICS
Petrounias wins gold in Europeans
Lefteris Petrounias won his first gold medal in a European Artistic Gymnastics Championship on Saturday finishing first in the rings at Montpellier in France. Petrounias was impeccable in th...
Inside Sports
COMMENTARY
Tragedy in the Mediterranean
Every time we in the West see yet another video of an atrocity committed by Islamic State or Boko Haram and express our abhorrence, and every time we are shocked to read of a boatload of mig...
EDITORIAL
Silence is not an option
There is no shortage of politicians, lobbyists and unionists from the center right who have backed the government, whether tacitly or explicitly. Naturally, when it was first elected, the go...
Inside Comment
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. ECB studying curbs on Greek bank support
2. Greek markets slide on reports ECB planning to restrict bank funding
3. Greek governments popularity takes a hit as talks drag on
4. No ferries on Labor Day as seamen take industrial action
5. Two men accused of migrant smuggling face prosecutor over deadly shipwreck
6. Panathinaikos recovers to beat CSKA for 2-1
more news
Today
This Week
1. Tragedy in the Mediterranean
2. Two men accused of migrant smuggling face prosecutor over deadly shipwreck
3. Silence is not an option
4. No ferries on Labor Day as seamen take industrial action
5. Greek government's popularity takes a hit as talks drag on
6. Greek markets slide on reports ECB planning to restrict bank funding
Today
This Week
1. Quarantine for Greek bank subsidiaries in neighboring countries
2. Greek finance ministry hits back at German newspaper report
3. Time to get serious
4. Putting off payments led to Q1 budget primary surplus
5. Obama calls for flexibility in Greek reform talks in brief exchange with Varoufakis
6. Greece denies report that it is preparing for debt default
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.