EU to Look into Ukraine’s Progress at 20th Annual Bilateral Summit in Brussels

EU to Look into Ukraine’s Progress at 20th Annual Bilateral Summit in Brussels

The European Union and Ukraine are set to hold their 20th annual summit in Brussels amid recognition that the latter has been making progress on the former’s recommendations, and fears that the reform impetus in Kyiv might be waning.

The EU and Ukraine hold a summit once a year to check the country’s progress on measures called for by the bloc.

The 20th EU – Ukraine Summit is taking place on Monday, July 9, 2018, in Brussels, with the participation of European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

It will be the first bilateral summit to be held since the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement entered into force on September 1, 2017. According to the European Council, it has already resulted in a 24% boost to bilateral trade.

The EU institutions in Brussels widely recognize that Ukraine has seen more positive developments in the past 4 years than it did in the preceding 20 years, according to a report of German state-run media Deutsche Welle.

Reforms will be the central topic of the 20th EU – Ukraine summit, with EU officials generally being satisfied with the pace of implementation of reforms in education, pensions, and healthcare as well as decentralization. However, they remain very critical of Ukraine’s fight against corruption.

“It’s making very slow progress,” Amanda Paul, an analyst at the Brussels-based European Policy Center who researches the EU’s foreign policy in Eastern Europe, told DW.

“Sometimes the country takes three steps forward and two steps back. But at least it’s still moving forward,” she added.

With presidential and parliamentary elections set to be held by Ukraine in 2019, there are concerns in the EU if the reform impetus there will remain sufficiently strong.

Even Ukraine’s overall course remains a question mark as the current President Petro Poroshenko’s support hovers between 5% and 10% of the people, while former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko leads the polls with 15%.

As the EU member states, especially key ones in Western Europe, remain divided as to whether they should offer Ukraine the prospect of EU membership even in the long run, Poroshenko has shifted to a new strategy in which he wants to integrate Ukraine into the EU “sectorally”.

He has already asked the European Commission to study the feasibility of the country’s joining the EU’s digital domestic market and energy and customs unions. The first results of these studies are to be presented at Monday’s summit.

Ukraine has been involved in a “cold’ conflict with Russia since 2014, after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in reaction to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv, which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West.

A pro-Russian insurgency possibly instigated and aided by Moscow followed shortly in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine and has been raging ever since. Because of Crimea’s annexation and the war in Eastern Ukraine, the EU has introduced sanctions against Russia.

At last year’s EU – Ukraine Summit in Brussels, Ukraine formally became the second former Soviet republic after Georgia (not counting Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which have been EU member states since 2004) to be granted visa-free travel to the EU.

One EU official confirmed that there had been no increase in illegal migration from Ukraine as a result.

(Banner image: European Council press service)

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