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EU, Ukraine Delay Application Of Free Trade Pact

European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht speaks to the press following a trilateral meeting between the EU, Russia, and Ukraine on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in Brussels on September 12.

BRUSSELS -- The European Union and Ukraine have delayed the application of their deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement (DCFTA) by 15 months -- to December 31, 2015.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said on September 12 that Ukraine will continue to benefit from an opening of the bloc's market for Ukrainian goods until the agreement enters into force.

He was speaking in Brussels following talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev.

De Gucht said the reason for the decision was the very fragile economic situation in Ukraine.

He added that the delay leaves time for the three parties to "consult on how to address concerns raised by Russia."

This would be done as part of efforts to "fully support the stabilization of Ukraine," he said.

De Gucht added that the decision was "part and parcel of the comprehensive peace process" in Ukraine, where government forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists since April.

Russia has repeatedly raised concerns over the economic implications that the DCFTA might have for its economy, and threatened to introduce import tariffs on Ukrainian goods if the EU and Ukraine proceed with the application of the deal from November 1.

De Gucht's statement comes just after the EU – along with the United States -- imposed another set of sanctions aimed to punish Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

ALSO READ: U.S. Expands Sanctions Against Russia

De Gucht also said that the ratification of the DCFTA, scheduled for September 16 in both the European Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada, will go ahead.

Earlier on September 12 in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the planned ratification of the accord a "historic moment" that defines his country's future.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was quoted as saying the EU is ready to disburse 760 million euros ($985 million) of additional aid, part of a package of direct loans, to Ukraine in the coming weeks.

The Reuters news agency reported that Barroso, who is visiting Kyiv, wrote the comment in the text of a speech to be delivered at a conference in the Ukrainian capital.

"Six hundred million euros have already been disbursed and 760 million euros can be disbursed in the next month, provided some of the conditions are met, notably economic reforms and the fight against corruption," Barroso wrote.

The aid is part of a package announced earlier this year to help Ukraine’s economy get back on its feet.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP
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