Wednesday May 27, 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)  
Athens waits to hear EU scheme for refugees
Parliament starts fresh inquiry into Siemens scandal
Varoufakis fuels confusion over reforms as Juncker questions his role
European court backs Imvros property claim
EU funds at risk due to payment halt by the state
Greece runs the immediate risk of missing out on 1 billion euros worth of European Union subsidies this year from the previous support framework, which expires on December 31, as a payment f...
Half of Greeks cover their needs from their deposits
Greek salaried workers cannot buy what they want but, rather, have to limit themselves to what they can afford on their reduced disposable income, a survey by the Labor Institute of the Gene...
Inside Business
SOCCER
AEK Athens returns to top league after financial collapse
Greek club AEK Athens has just returned to the country's top soccer league, two years after financial collapse sent it to a lower league. One of the country's largest clubs, AEK sealed its s...
SOCCER
Berg brace gives Panathinaikos four-point lead
Panathinaikos beat Atromitos on Sunday and took advantage of the goalless draw between PAOK and Asteras Tripolis to open a four-point gap from PAOK at the top of the Super League play-off mi...
Inside Sports
COMMENTARY
Shame, justice, democracy
Contrary to the urban myth that Greek students are no longer taught Ancient Greek at school, they are both taught and tested on it. This does not mean to say, of course, that the subject is ...
EDITORIAL
Worrying signs in ruling party
Statements made by certain high-ranking SYRIZA officials during the partys central committee assembly on Saturday are a source of concern. It has become blatantly clear by now that a signif...
Inside Comment
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. AEK Athens returns to top league after financial collapse
2. EU funds at risk due to payment halt by the state
3. Half of Greeks cover their needs from their deposits
4. Greece reaps 2 billion euros per year from cruise sector
5. Athens waits to hear EU scheme for refugees
6. Political, economic instability turns German tourists away
more news
Today
This Week
1. IMF's Blanchard says Greek budget proposals not enough
2. Overhaul planned for car taxation
3. Germany sees progress on Greece, EU officials to confer on Thursday
4. Euro falls to four-week low as Greece deadlock spurs volatility
5. Time running out for Greece, ESM head Regling says
6. Heres a Greek business thats booming: Making test-tube babies
Today
This Week
1. Conspiracy madness
2. National self-awareness put to the test
3. Albanian demarche raises concerns about possible territorial claims over Greece
4. Hotel contracts with a Greek default clause
5. Neither Grexit nor a dual currency will solve Greeces problems
6. Merkel said to plan address for Greece if deal reached
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.