No Outcome Reached at Final Meeting on the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Area
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkim, and Russian Minister for Economic Development Ulyukayev failed to come to an agreement during their late-December talks in Brussels relating to the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between the EU and Ukraine.
The trilateral talks have been ongoing since July 2014.
“Throughout the process the EU has been attentive to Russia’s concerns and put forward proposals for practical solutions,” said a statement from the European Commission. “However, Russia made requests that were not substantiated or could not be accommodated as they were not in line with WTO or EU legislation.”
The EU has proposed several constructive proposals on the three main areas of the talks: technical barriers to trade (TBT), sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), and customs cooperation.
The European Commission has offered to keep talking in a trilateral working group this year, on the condition that Russia upheld its Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) FTA obligations towards Ukraine.
On December 16, 2015 Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended the CIS FTA with Ukraine. This, according to the European Commission, “added an element of political pressure and contradicted the conditions set out in the declarations to engage in the trilateral talks.”
“We spent 18 months in extensive discussions on TBT, SPS, and customs cooperation to accommodate Russia’s concerns,” said Malmström. “We were ready to make the efforts needed to reach a joint understanding. Therefore, I was deeply surprised by President Putin’s decree of 16 December 2015 that suspends all Russia’s obligations towards Ukraine in the framework of the CIS FTA. This measure goes against the mandate, the spirit and the objective of these talks.”
Russia’s continued insistence on a legally binding agreement, which would amount to a reopening of the bilateral agreement between the EU and Ukraine, could not be accommodated, as has been made clear throughout these talks. The Commissioner added that “As has been conveyed from the beginning of the talks and reconfirmed by [European Commission] President Juncker last week the DCFTA cannot be amended – neither directly nor indirectly.”