European companies could be looking forward to a boost in business with Ukraine after Kiev and Brussels moved a step closer to a free trade deal.
They have now initialled the much-delayed Association Agreement but the European Union has made it clear a number of conditions are attached to the actual signing of it.
Brussels wants to avoid Kiev turning further towards Moscow, especially since its president, Viktor Yanukovych, is perceived as pro-Russian.
For Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Valery Khoroshkovsky the accord is about: “the path which we have defined with our partners in all its areas of focus.”
He said the association agreement including the free trade deal was also about Ukraine’s ability to obtain macro-economic, financial and other aid.
The deal should have been signed last year but was delayed after former premier, Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed on abuse of office charges.
Her Batkivshchyna party doubts Yanukovych will fulfil reform pledges.
“This is a test for the government,” said its deputy leader, Grigoriy Nemyrya. “It will be the moment of truth since President Yanukovych and the government constantly say they are for European integration. The association agreement is a key step now.”
The introduction to the accord recognises Ukraine’s “European aspirations” and refers to its “European identity”. Whether Brussels’ carrot and stick approach will pay off, only time will tell.