The 23 EU-Ukraine Summit successfully took place in Kyiv, despite some unresolved issues. Above all, there was a mismatch of expectations from both sides: the EU wanted more reforms and focus on judiciary and anticorruption, while Ukraine wanted first of all the discussion of energy issues and some security issues.
The EU did not really want to embark on energy issues but the Ukrainian side pushed the topic as the headline of the agenda. The EU committed to jointly react to the threats for the energy security of the EU and the critical energy infrastructure – which basically is a commitment to strengthen Ukrainian positions in its fight with Russia. Although, no shortcuts should be excepted and it will take time for the EU to mobilize in this direction.
On the reforms regarding the justice area, the EU appears to praise the legislative changes, including the criminalization of illicit enrichment but highlights that implementation remains key and the way the wording was formulated indicates the EU’s dissatisfaction with the process, especially in light of the recent failure to appoint the anti-corruption prosecutor. Also important, that EU mentions reforms as basically the only viable way to boost EU-Ukraine relations – something which Kyiv does not accept entirely.
Unsurprisingly, the EU backed the law “on oligarchs” since the EU along with other partners has been highlighting this as a serious impediment for reforms. But as far as we know, there are no high expectations that the law would clean the politics from oligarchs and the recent changes should also be viewed in the context of the next presidential and parliamentary elections.
Mentioning “Integration into the EU internal market” is a really good sign. Unlike the previous year when the EU basically refused to put this into the final statement because of the protest of some EU members, this year the parties mention this which also shows readiness to start a dialogue on this matter. The statement also mentions commitments from both sides to the implementation of AA which is really important since quite often it was seen as a patron-client formula – now this balances the dialogue.
In terms of the regional context, the Trio format and efforts have been acknowledged by Brussels but the EU left the impression that awaits concrete actions and more results beyond statements.
One has to mention the progress in the security area for Ukraine. The statement mentions the practical steps on the security and possible participation of Ukraine in EU missions and in PESCO initiatives – something that the EU was unwilling before for two reasons: not to irritate Russia; and since the EU itself is in the process of formulating a policy in the area of security. Although in the statement this is not mentioned, the cooperation in security is mainly about the military training programs and cyber security.
Finally, an important element of progress was the signature of the Open Sky Agreement which is delayed since 2013 because of the dispute between the UK and Spain. This issue was fixed by Brexit.
Leo Litra, Senior Fellow, New Europe Center