“The Ukrainian question” in the EU-Russia relations: will we witness “Three to Tango”?

Posted by Valeriy Kucheruk on 15/01/14
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Ukraine continues to stay in the epicenter of difficult relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union. This can be inferred from the words of the head of the Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU Vladimir Chizhov who has recently declared that his country is ready to discuss the notorious “Ukrainian question” at the January Russia-EU summit.

“Relations between Russia and the EU are actually better than they are sometimes represented by mass media, – said Mr.Chizhov. – The relations between Russia and the EU shouldn’t come down only to Ukraine. However, Ukraine is a sovereign state which makes its own decisions and pursues its own policy. We are ready to discuss any subject which is mutually interesting at the summit”.

As it is known, the EU-Russia summit will take place in Brussels at the end of January. Earlier the EU heads criticized Russia for the pressure it imposed upon Ukraine which resulted in not-signing of the Association Agreement with the EU by Kyiv at the Eastern Partnership summit at the end of November in Vilnius. Ukrainian and Russian parties urged the European Union to conduct the tripartite negotiations, because, according to the Ukrainian officials, signing of the Association Agreement and creation of the Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU would create considerable problems for the Russian Federation whose position is important to the Ukrainian economy in many respects.

Mr.Chizhov has once again confirmed that his country is ready to such negotiations: “We are ready to the negotiations in the tripartite format, but the EU refused this idea, having said that it doesn’t take three to tango”.

Officials of the European Union haven’t yet reacted to these words of the Russian diplomat, however, despite the statements of representatives of the Ukrainian power about the continuation of the eurointegration course, Europe isn’t intensifying negotiations with Ukraine as well. For example, January 13 the press officer of the EU Delegation in Kyiv David Stulik said the date of the following Ukraine-EU summit hasn’t been defined yet. This same information was also confirmed by the press secretary of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maya Kosyanchich. “The date of the summit hasn’t been appointed yet. Respectively, no new joint documents with Ukraine are being prepared meanwhile. The parties will get down to their development only when the date of conduction of the summit which … has to take place annually is defined” — she said.

At the same time, sources in Brussels told representatives of the Ukrainian mass media that the EU-Ukraine summit can take place in the first half of 2014. “Brussels waits for a signal from Kyiv that Ukraine keeps the European prospect and is ready to begin a new round of negotiations about the Association. The schedule of measures appearing in the Association Agreement can become the subject of negotiations. We are ready to demonstrate flexibility” — the European diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.

As we can see, both parties – Ukraine and the EU – show “miracles of flexibility”, expecting some kind of signals about the continuation of eurointegration processes from each other.

Meanwhile, there are all bases to believe that soon the position of the European Union in terms of the idea of the tripartite negotiations can change.  “The eurointegration break” taken by Ukraine and the EU’s unwillingness to compensate possible financial losses from the signing of the Association Agreement have once again shown that official Berlin has key influence on the adoption of important EU decisions.  German experts note high probability of the German policy turn to the intensification of cooperation with Russia, including in “the Ukrainian question”.  The appointment of a new coordinator of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Germany for German-Russian relations Gernot Erler on January 9 became the reason for voicing similar opinions.  Mr.Erler is considered to be the supporter of Germany’s rapprochement with Russia and is an active critic of Westerwelle’s Eastern policy.

In the interview which he gave before officially taking the office, the coordinator noted that “the EU conducted negotiations with Ukraine for many years, and both parties were almost ready to sign the Agreement. And then Russia came and said: let’s conduct tripartite negotiations. Directly in this situation the EU couldn’t agree with these demands. In the long-term prospect, however, the Russian side will have to be included into the mediation process”.

In the current political and geopolitical realities it is difficult to disagree with Mr.Erler.

 

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