The EU-Ukraine Association Council held its second meeting on Monday 7 December 2015 in Brussels.
The Association Council took stock of developments in EU-Ukraine relations since the first Association Council held in December 2014 and welcomed the significant progress realised since. Both sides reaffirmed the significance they attach to the partnership, as well as their continued commitment to deepening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the EU on the basis of respect for common values and their effective promotion.
The Association Council welcomed the ratification of the Association Agreement by a large majority of Member States and looked forward to its full entry into force.
Ukraine and the EU will provisionally apply the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) part of the Association Agreement as of 1 January 2016. Ukraine and the EU agreed on the need to ensure full compliance with the commitments undertaken in the context of the DCFTA, including by further enhancing Ukraine's preparatory efforts. The Association Council also took stock of the trilateral talks on DCFTA implementation. The EU and Ukraine reiterated their readiness to continue talks at the ministerial and expert levels by using the flexibilities offered by the DCFTA. They underlined that any solutions found must respect relevant WTO provisions and commitments.
The EU welcomed substantial progress in implementing reforms that have been achieved this year in particular the launch of work of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and new national police, completion of the selection process of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, adoption by Verkhovna Rada in the first reading of amendments to the Constitution on decentralisation and adoption of the law "On natural gas market" aimed at bringing the gas sector of Ukraine in compliance with the Third Energy Package.
The EU welcomed the strong political commitment of the Ukrainian authorities to bring the reform process forward, despite the challenges faced by the country, notably the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Association Council acknowledged the importance of swift and thorough implementation, and enforcement, of new policies and legislative frameworks and of further acceleration of political and economic reforms in the following areas in the short term:
The Association Council recognised that reforms have to be made first and foremost in the interest of Ukrainian people.
The EU reiterated its firm commitment to a political and peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine based on the respect for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, including through the complete implementation by all sides of the Minsk agreements. In this regard, the Association Council endorsed all diplomatic efforts within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group, and recalled that the duration of EU economic restrictive measures against the Russian Federation is linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements. Furthermore, it expressed concern over the recent increase in the number and gravity of cease-fire violations, and stressed that all hostages and illegally detained persons related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including Nadiya Savchenko should be released, in accordance with the Minsk agreements.
The Association Council highlighted the need to continue addressing the humanitarian situation resulting from the conflict and encouraged Ukraine to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid into conflict-affected areas as well as to comprehensively address the rights and longer term needs of Internally Displaced Persons. The EU expressed its willingness to step-up its support to de-mining activities in eastern Ukraine.
The Association Council expressed concern over the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Crimean peninsula, including that of the Crimean Tatar community and called for the provision of full, free and unrestricted access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol to international human rights actors. The EU reiterated its demand for the immediate release of Mr Sentsov and Mr Kolchenko and their safe return to Ukraine. The EU recalled that it does not recognise and continues to condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation.
Ukraine and the EU took stock of the progress made in relation to the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and agreed on the need for continued efforts. The EU welcomed the good overall conduct of the local elections held on 25 October 2015, demonstrating progress in the respect for democratic principles.
The Association Council welcomed the progress made so far by Ukraine towards visa liberalisation. Both sides looked forward to the next progress report on the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, which will be published later this month.
The Association Council welcomed the first signs of economic stabilization in Ukraine and called for a continued implementation of sound macroeconomic and financial policies.
The Association Council acknowledged the significant financial support of over €7 billion by the EU and European Financial Institutions provided since 2014. It underlined that this financial support is helping Ukraine stabilize its economy, reforming it in line with international standards and improving the livelihoods of its citizens over time.
The Association Council welcomed the adoption on 2 December 2015 of a new EU programme in support of decentralisation worth €97 million (€90 million from the EU budget, €6 million from Germany and €1 million from Poland), as well the complementary support under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace for the restoration of governance and peace-building in the eastern part of Ukraine worth €10 million.
The Association Council also welcomed the signing of the Administrative Arrangement between the European Defence Agency and the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine by the High Representative Federica Mogherini in her capacity as Head of the European Defence Agency and the Minister of Defence of Ukraine Stepan Poltoraktoday.
Both sides looked forward to putting into practice the enhanced mandate of the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform (EUAM Ukraine) aiming at better responding to Ukraine's needs in its efforts to reform the country's civilian security sector, taking into account current security challenges. The Association Council also noted the recent extension by two years of the European Commission Border Assistance Mission to the Republic of Moldova and to Ukraine (EUBAM), as well as the agreement signed enhancing the mission's mandate in respect to border and customs related aspects of the Association Agreements and the implementation of the DCFTAs.
As additional demonstration of deepening relations, the Association Council welcomed Ukraine's accession to Creative Europe and progress towards the accession of Ukraine to the EU Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, COSME as well as the shared aim to open negotiations to provide satellite-based Augmentation Services in Ukraine based on the European satellite Navigation Programme EGNOS. Both sides positively assessed the progress made towards the association of Ukraine to the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2014-2018 complementing the EU Programme on Research and Innovation “Horizon 2020”, which will allow an effective association from 1 January 2016 onwards.
The Association Council welcomed the energy reforms initiated this year, in particular in the gas sector, and underlined the need to finalise the legislative framework on energy regulation and on electricity market. Both sides expressed readiness to continue cooperation on energy efficiency and the modernisation and operation of the Ukrainian gas transportation system and on storages and on securing gas supplies between Ukraine and the EU. Ukraine and the EU looked forward to the launching of the negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding for a Strategic Energy Partnership.
Recalling the commitment made in the 17th EU-Ukraine Summit and the latest Summit of the Eastern Partnership in Riga to conclude the EU-Ukraine Agreement on Common Aviation Area, as referred to in the Association Agreement, at the earliest possible date in 2015, the EU renewed its commitment to a prompt signature of the Agreement.
The Association Council welcomed the joint Communication of the High Representative and the Commission on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) review adopted on 18 November and committed to its implementation stressing the non-confrontational nature of the ENP. It will be the subject of further discussion in 2016, while work will continue on the basis of existing contractual arrangements. Differentiation and enhanced ownership will be the hallmark of the reviewed ENP.
Finally, Ukraine and the EU stressed the importance of effective strategic communication and agreed to close cooperation to this end, including through the newly established EU Strategic Communications Task Force focused on the Eastern Neighbourhood and beyond.
The meeting was chaired by Mr Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine. Ukraine was also represented by ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economic Development and Trade, Justice and Defence. The EU was represented by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini and the Commissioner responsible for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn.