European Parliament Ratifies EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, Plenary Debates Reflect Diverse Views on Russia

The EU and Ukraine are now one step closer to establishing a deep political association and economic integration after the European Parliament ratified, today in Strasbourg, the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). MEPs backed the agreement with 535 votes in favour, 127 against and 35 abstentions, a press release said.

At the same time, the Agreement was also ratified by the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv.

“This is an historic moment,” EP President Martin Schulz said via a video link, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv before the vote. “The two parliaments freely determined to vote today at the same time on this agreement. This is free democracy, the opposite of directed democracy. The European Parliament has always defended the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and will continue to do so,” he added.

“Through this ratification, Ukraine’s European choice will be institutionalized and will bind the futures of the EU and Ukraine together,” said rapporteur Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (Polish MEP) before the vote. “Ukrainian society has paid the highest price for its European aspirations, grieving the deaths of numerous people, suffering territorial occupation by Russia and experiencing deteriorating economic conditions,” he said, adding: “ With this ratification, the EU gives Ukraine the strongest sign of support, despite the regrettable proposal to delay implementation of the agreement. “

The press release quoted President Poroshenko as telling MPs in Kyiv before they ratified the deal: “The Ukrainians have reversed the express-train going East, and I hope that also today’s vote will confirm that. Our synchronised ratifications will be a feast, not just for Ukraine but also for Europe because without Ukraine there is no united Europe.”

What next?

As a result of today’s votes, both in the EU and Ukrainian Parliament, the agreement will be applied provisionally but the date still needs to be confirmed by the Council. To take full legal effect, the deal has to be ratified by the 28 EU member states. So far, it has been ratified in six member states, and it may take several years for the process to be completed in all member states.

It was planned to apply the trade rules from 1 November this year, but last Friday 12 September, the EU, Ukraine and Russia agreed in talks to delay the provisional entry into effect of the trade rules until 31 December 2015.

Russia factor

Russia’s role over Eastern Ukraine and the EU’s sanctions against Moscow were high on the agenda of debates in the Strasbourg plenary today. “We want to see actions and not words from Russia” said Elmar Brok (German MEP), stressing that Russian tanks and troops were still in Ukraine and the ceasefire was not being respected. “Until this is the case, we must maintain the sanctions and strengthen them further. Russia must know that the rule of law stands”, he said.

“Sanctions are no substitute for a diplomatic and political solution”, stressed Gianni Pittella (Italian MEP). He called for efforts to facilitate dialogue between Ukraine and Russia, “so that communication channels with Russia are kept open until tangible steps are taken towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.” Pittella also stressed that the EU should be prepared to ease sanctions if progress is achieved with Russia.

Nigel Farage (UK), of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group argued that the EU’s current policy was an “unnecessary provocation of Vladimir Putin”.

Füle: Agreement may pave way to free economic zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok

Addressing MEPs at the plenary session before the vote, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle disagreed with the view that the EU’s Association Agreements create new dividing lines in Europe. “I believe the time has come to prove that the Association Agreement is actually one of the building components of what we foresee could be in the future the European economic free zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

However, the immediate task is to find a sustainable political solution to the conflict in Ukraine, the Commissioner said. He outlined the EU’s approach, which consists of keeping pressure on Russia through sanctions while supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and helping it overcome the difficulties it faces.

The EU’s restrictive measures are “reversible and scalable”, Füle insisted. Therefore, by the end of September, member states will review the situation and decide whether the sanctions might be “amended, suspended or repealed, in all or in part depending of course also on developments in Crimea.”


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