Political and security association of Ukraine to the EU

In a sober ceremony in Brussels, leaders of the EU and its member states, on the one hand, and the interim Prime Minister of Ukraine, on the other, signed the political provisions of the Association Agreement (AA). Whereas these provisions represent only a fraction of the agreement when compared to the bulk of deep and comprehensive free trade arrangements that remain to be signed off, the event on March 21st was nevertheless highly symbolic, committing Ukraine to political and security association to the EU, a move likely to further incense the Kremlin.

Crucially, the preamble of the agreement emphasises the “independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders” of Ukraine, welcomes its European choice and aspirations, recognises its “common history and common values with the Member States of the European Union", and expresses the parties’ desire of achieving an “ever-closer convergence of positions on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest, taking into account the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)”.

The political dialogue set forth in the AA aims, inter alia, to strengthen the common values on which the association is built, i.e. “respect  for  democratic  principles,  the  rule  of  law  and  good governance,  human  rights  and  fundamental  freedoms,  including  the  rights  of persons  belonging  to  national  minorities,  non-discrimination  of  persons belonging  to  minorities  and  respect  for  diversity,  and  to  contribute  to consolidating domestic political reforms” (Art. 4.2.e). These values and other principles, rights and freedoms, as defined in the provisions of the UN Charter, the OSCE’s 1975 Helsinki Final and 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe, and the Council of Europe’s 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, constitute “essential elements” of the agreement (Art. 2), which means that their violation by one of the parties could lead to the suspension or even denunciation of the AA.

The AA upgrades the existing EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council to an Association Council, commits both parties to conduct dialogue through various fora (incl. political, parliamentary, diplomatic and military dimensions) and introduces a regular bilateral Summit (Art. 5). The European Council agreed that the first meeting in the political dialogue as envisaged under the AA should take place in April.

In the sphere of security cooperation, the AA promotes the “gradual convergence” of Ukraine’s foreign, security and defence policies with that of the EU with the aim of “Ukraine’s ever-deeper involvement in the European security area” (Art. 4.1). It stresses the intent of both parties to work towards international stability and security based on “effective multilateralism” (Art. 4.2.b), following the “commonly shared principles for maintaining international peace and security as established by the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975” (Art. 9.2) and other relevant multilateral documents which Russia so blatantly violated by invading, occupying and annexing Crimea. Notably, the agreement binds the EU and Ukraine to “intensify their joint efforts to promote stability, security and democratic development in their common neighbourhood, and in particular to work together for the peaceful settlement of regional conflicts” (Art. 9.1). This provision obviously applies to the simmering conflict of Transnistria, on the border of Ukraine and Moldova.

More generally, the parties impose on themselves an obligation to “enhance practical cooperation in conflict prevention and crisis management, in particular with a view to increasing the participation of Ukraine in EU-led civilian and military crisis management operations” (Art. 10.1). They will also explore the potential of military-technological cooperation (Art. 10.3), counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (Art. 11.2), cooperate on disarmament, arms control and illicit trafficking of arms (Art. 12), as well as the fight against terrorism (Art. 13).

In the words of European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, the ceremony on March 21st was “but the opening act”. The EU expects to soon sign the remainder of the AA’s provisions on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which together with the political provisions constitute a single instrument. According to the European Council this should happen in June, i.e. after the May Presidential elections in Ukraine. The expectation is that ratification of the AA will only follow after elections for the Rada, called for by the new President, have taken place.

The provisional text of the AA/DCFTA is available on the website of the EEAS: http://eeas.europa.eu/ukraine/assoagreement/assoagreement-2013_en.htm