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Ukraine's EU deal hangs in the balance

brussels bureau

Ukraine's EU deal hangs in the balance


A week before the EU’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Lithuania and it’s still unclear whether Ukraine will seek closer ties with Brussels or Moscow.

The question is whether Kiev will free jailed opposition leader Yuila Tymoshenko; it is a key condition for the EU if an agreement is to be struck.

Peter Sondergaard, an analyst from the European Endowment for Democracy, said the sage is “like a football match which came to extra time.”

“It’s not quite clear whether it’s a match between Russia and the EU or between Ukraine and the EU,” he said.

Diplomats admit privately that is little chance of an agreement being signed in Vilnius. Ukraine’s parliament was supposed to have passed a law to release Tymoshenko on compassionate grounds.

Russia is pressurising Ukraine not to sign the agreement. It is offering Kiev incentives to join its own customs union. such as cheaper gas.

Christian Forstner, the director of the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation, said “Europe offers rather long-term projects such as privileged trade relations.”

“But Ukraine needs help urgently,” said Forstner.
“The agreement with the European Union and joining the Customs Union with Russia are mutually exclusive things. That’s why I think Ukraine will not sign the agreement.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin once said the Soviet Union’s collapse “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Keeping Ukraine under Moscow’s orbit is all about restoring Russia to its former glory, analysts say.

Roland Freudenstein of the Centre for European Studies said that was “a mistaken strategy”.

“Russia should be interested in countries with the rule of law, with good governance and indeed with freedom and democracy at its borders. But it seems that people in power in Russia at the moment are considering such counties as threat,” he told euronews.

The decision on whether to build a deeper relationship with Brussels or Moscow has been described as the biggest moment for Ukraine since it voted for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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