The MPs have at last begun to fulfill their promises of European integration. The week before last the governmental as well as the oppositional factions passed, by more than 300 votes, a number of laws that pave the way for signing the Agreement on Association and a Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the European Union. There are some more documents still to be adopted, but the process began to gather momentum after the summer recess. Naturally, things are not always smooth: before coming to the session hall, bills undergo the test of being amended and coordinated by MPs from different camps. In a word, there is a debate on how to make the law better. But there is much less talk about what will occur later, after, let us hope, the agreement is signed at the Vilnius summit. The formula “to be in Europe” is now the talk of the town, but how will this look in practice? For the Regionnaires who favor Euro-integration cannot but understand that a time will come to implement the passed laws. Is Ukraine prepared to adopt European practices? Here is an interview with some parliamentarians.
“WHAT IS LEFT IN THE RUSSIAN ARSENAL TO PUT PRESSURE ON UKRAINE? FOUR BLOCKS…”
Arsenii YATSENIUK, member of parliament, chair of the Fatherland faction:
“I must say that, after the opposition forced our opponents to negotiate, Euro-integration bills were put on the agenda and we gained results. As for the further voting on bills, everything depends on the current leadership’s political will.
“As for the risks, let us see what is left in the Russian arsenal. Firstly, it must be clear to us that even if Russia clears our goods across its customs border, it will be a temporary measure because they cannot replace our goods with other imported items at the moment. They are going to establish this import even if it is more expensive and less profitable – they will do their utmost to prevent Ukraine from signing and ratifying the EU Association Agreement. So they will be thwarting the export of Ukrainian goods. The nest step will be actions against work migrants – as before, they will be harassing, evicting, levying taxes on people, etc. Thirdly, they will begin to pressure Ukraine by means of gas and energy problems. Above all, it is the problem of gas transit across the territory of Ukraine. They will again accuse us in the winter of cutting off the transit of gas to Europe, which they did in 2006 and 2009. They will also consider the question of visa restrictions for our citizens. These are the four blocks they are going to use publicly, and we must be prepared for this. In the final analysis, we will overcome this.”
“THERE WILL ONLY BE POSITIVE RESULTS OF THE SIGNING OF THIS AGREEMENT, BUT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO APPLY SOME OF THE PASSED LAWS…”
Viktor PYNZENYK, member of parliament, UDAR faction:
“Naturally, laws must be passed, but only the laws that can be applied. Unfortunately, I have every reason to say that it is impossible to apply some of the passed laws. There are many provisions that will have to be reexamined.
“I believe there will only be positive results of the signing of this agreement. Ukraine will get access to an immense market. We do not this access today due to differing customs rates. For example, different rates are applied to Poland and Ukraine, and the agreement will settle this problem. We will begin working with a competitive market. There is no better way to cause one to be better than to place him in a competitive environment, and the related pressure will only be in the interests of this country and our citizens. In the long run, we want to have better and cheaper products.
“As for the businesses linked with Russia, let them work. Nobody is going to repeal the agreement on a free trade area with Russia. As a matter of fact, it is absurd [to apply sanctions to Ukraine], for we do not impose sanctions on Russia when it signs similar treaties. Besides, it is only an association agreement, not Euro-integration. Obviously, Russia’s pressure is political rather than economic.
“The Ukrainian government is now drawing up a free trade agreement with Turkey. Why is Russia not protesting? For some reason, Ukraine faces ultimatums only when it is a question of the EU.
“Ukraine should seek much more effective and stronger decisions to solve the problems that exist in many sectors. The world experience is not a dogma. Europe urges us not to duplicate its laws but to find our own approaches and decisions that will help overcome corruption, establish an independent judicial system, decriminalize the economy, etc.
“Today we have passed a law on independence of judges. Yet, in my opinion, the only way to achieve this goal is to elect judges. Society is not yet prepared for this. Public prosecutors should also be elective. But these decisions can only be made if we ‘set our brains right.’”
“THE EXPORT OF GRAIN WILL RISE BY ABOUT 10 PERCENT”
Volodymyr KLYMENKO, president, Ukrainian Grain Association:
“I think we are absolutely prepared for cooperation with the EU on the grain market, and Euro-integration will give us nothing but endless advantages. Firstly, Ukraine has long been exporting millions of tons of grain to the EU. We dispatch 2.5 million tons of grain to Spain alone. It’s all a tall story [fears about Euro-integration. – Ed.]… We can also export still more without any customs duties, restrictions or quotas. Secondly, this will make it possible to import duty-free the equipment for, say, the construction of grain elevators. So this will be interesting from the angle of import and export. The EU is importing a certain amount of grain. It will not be buying two or 10 times more after the Euro-integration. They just don’t need so much grain. The export of grain to the EU will rise by about 10 percent. But the main thing is relaxation of trade regulations and import of the equipment we need.”
“UKRAINE WILL NOT AVOID HARMONIZING CUSTOMS CLEARING PROCEDURES AND ESTABLISHING A SINGLE MECHANISM OF PUBLIC PROCUREMENT”
Volodymyr LAPA, director general, Association Ukrainian Club of Agrarian Business:
“There will be no revolutions. When the negotiating process started, it was about bringing Ukraine’s technical, veterinary and sanitary regulations into line with EU standards. It was being discussed how to adapt all this better. It became clear during the negotiations that the country was generally unprepared for this. Now the question is about coordinating the monitoring bodies and bringing legislative norms closer. I saw nothing about the agro-industrial complex in the six draft laws, but, to trade with the EU, Ukraine will not avoid harmonizing customs clearance procedures and establishing a single mechanism of public procuring – in particular, to enable Ukrainian businesses to take part in EU bidding procedures and vice versa. Speaking of Euro-integration and its consequences, I would take a calm attitude to our potential. Joining the WTO, we also thought we would have everything immediately and our investment image would improve. But it turned out that this takes time. So the external factor – signing the Association Agreement – is a good thing, but large-scale changes are impossible without reform inside the country.”
TO THE POINT
On September 5 in the evening, the Verkhovna Rada passed one more law that is part of the minimum package to be adopted before the Vilnius summit. It calls for elections in five problem first-past-the-post constituencies (Nos. 94, 132, 194, 197, and 223). On the opposition’s demand, the elections were scheduled for December 15. The bill garnered 371 votes.
A little earlier, parliament had passed the laws that are supposed to bring the Ukrainian legislation into line with European standards: one on changes to the Criminal Executive Code of Ukraine about the procedure and condition of serving a sentence, and another on strengthening the guarantees of judges’ independence. The latter was referred to the Constitutional Court for examination.