: UT Exclusive: Ukraine's foreign affairs minister on visa free regime with the EU
Opinion16:21 Nov. 12, 2015
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UT Exclusive: Ukraine's foreign affairs minister on visa free regime with the EU

Ukraine's chief diplomat talks about free trade deal with EU and Ukraine's corruption fight

The Minister of Foreign affairs of Ukraine Mr Pavlo Klimkin joining Volodymyr Solohub on Ukraine Today's Viewpoint.

Volodymyr Solohub: On November 10, the delegation of Ministry of Foreign affairs of Ukraine was supposed to go to Brussels to discuss the progress of Ukraine and Ukrainian parliament adopting the necessary laws, so-called visa free-laws. The failure of the parliament to pass all necessary laws made this trip impossible, it was postponed. When is this trip scheduled, and what do you expect out of this trip?  

Pavlo Klimkin:  It is mainly a sort of technical format, which normally functions at the level of experts - from our side it is about deputy foreign minister, coordinating the whole activity from our side. In order to be prepared for the final report, on the 15th of December, we have to get 'everything on the table'. The process in Ukrainian parliament about approving this law is still going on, but it is not about just laws, it is about delivery, institutional delivery. If you have the best possible law, and it was in our history quite a few times, we have best legal conditions for that and not a sort of really committed implementation. So, we need to approve the laws and we need to start institutional implementation, for example, at least to foresee in the budget early financial allocations.

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V. S.: What about the contents of the laws? Everybody is talking about 12 laws which were necessary for Ukraine to get on this action plan.  There were a lot of concerns about the contents of these laws. Last Tuesday, when some of laws were being adopted by the parliament last-minute-changes were introduced to these laws. We were talking, on the very same day, with the representative of the EU delegation to Ukraine, they said that we are happy that the parliaments have adopted these laws but now we have to get the consolidated text, to translate it and experts need to go through these laws. How confident are you that the content of the essence of these laws is something which the EU was expecting from Ukraine?

P.K.: It is a crucial point for me. We need all these reforms even without the whole framework of visa process. We need effective vehicles for tackling corruption. We need effective reforms for civil security sector, we need effective treatment in the sphere of migration and do we still need the famous Soviet passports without any kind of security around them? We need real idea as in all European countries. Actually, all what we've been doing within visa free framework is needed for Ukraine. It is not for the European Union.

The second point, what we need again is to get on board good laws in the sense not only reflecting what we have in EU acquis communautaire, but also if we are talking about corruption, it's about  GRECO [Group of States against Corruption],  within the frame of Council of Europe what we talking about FATF [ Financial Action Task Force]. We need effective corruption vehicles and now we have been looking into the laws with all kinds of changes, whether they fully in line with European legislation and whether they are effective enough to do the job. 

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V. S.: Ukrainian government and MPs have been talking about the need to fight corruption for months. The whole Euromaidan revolution took place because the people didn't want to see the corrupt government any more. The new government, which came to power was promising to fight corruption, but still the Ukrainian people did not see big results happening, yet. Perhaps, with the pressure from our western partners this process will take place much faster?

P. K: We did quite a lot. For example our new traffic police…And now even with not enough experience for our new traffic police, is a way of sympathy and way of support for everyone, and we need to get all kind of institutional vehicles in place. Now what we've been looking is anticorruption prosecutor. Before the 1 of December we will have it formally in place.

V. S.:  But again, even the anti-corruption prosecutor did not go without the scandal. Your ministry had quite a statement about the General Prosecutor trying to control the process of selecting the anti-corruption prosecutor.  What is your relations with General Prosecutor's Office right now?

P. K: Absolutely fine. My point is that in our public discussion we have to focus on the result. What we need – is not just procedure.  Procedure is important, but what we need at the end of the day and what I have been working for is an effective contact and real assistance from two sides: from our US friends and from our EU friends to work together with our new institutional bodies. In order to be both transparent and effective we need get on board all kind of experience form US and from EU.

Read also Ukraine's Prosecutor General refuses to comply with EU visa liberalisation plan

V. S.: What do Ukraine's EU friends say about the General Prosecutor?

Again, the point is…It is like for the anti-corruption prosecutor and the prosecutor service in general, it is not about one or two particular persons, it is about changing the way how the prosecutor service works.

I have been talking to our EU and US friends about their special help to the future anti-corruption prosecutor. It is a good division of labor. So, it is exactly the point – we need these people here on the ground to work together with us in order to tackle all corruption challenges. It is the only way to get more effective.

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 V. S.: On the January 1, 2016 the provision application of the EU-Ukraine free trade agreement is coming into force. However it may be jeopardized, because the referendum on the ratification of the agreement in the Netherlands is still to take place. Even though we know that the referendum is on advisory nature, if the people of the Netherlands vote 'No', this will obviously be a big blow to Ukraine. What is Ukraine government and your ministry, in particular, doing now to lobby Ukraine's interest?

P.K:  Let's not mess up all these points. The future of free-trade agreement is not a competence of different EU-member-states - it is a community competence. So, whatever result we will get in any sort of advisory referendum will not influence at all the future implementation of the free-trade agreement, it is my first point.

We will start this implementation from the 1st of January. We will not exercise any changes for the way how the future free-trade agreement will operate – it is my second point.  

By the way, tomorrow there will be a whole day of talking to Cecilia Malmström, Euro-commissioner on trade affairs, and we will shapeup the vision how we will support the implementation. I've been to Denmark and Finland over weekend and there we agreed with our Danish friends to create a special Danish investment facility to help small and medium enterprisers to use the opportunity within FTA. 

V. S.: What about the planned trip of the President Poroshenko to the Netherlands in the coming days?

P.K: The idea has been agreed for months. There is a special way now of  interacting with our Dutch friends. It's mainly about Dutch assistance within EU agenda. It's probably a special sympathy because of MH17 tragedy and it is important also in the sense to have presidential visit. In the coming days I will go also to the Hague talking to Bert Koenders about our shared strategy in this referendum. Because it is not about Ukraine and EU-Ukraine association agreement, but it's about people who are traditionally considered and perceived as Eurosceptics. And these people are behind this referendum. So, this referendum is, actually, about Dutch-European policy, not about Ukraine. 

V. S.: And my final question is about east Ukraine. You know, after several months of peace in the past several days the fighting has intensified. Do you see this as the sign that Russia-backed militants are trying to violate the Minsk agreement yet again? So, if this continues and the fighting escalates, what do you plan to do about this on the international level?

P.K:  We did not have any sustainable ceasefire. It was a very fragile process and we still have no confidence in the process, without full access to Donbas. Taking into account everyday cases about hidden weapons, including heavy weapons and tanks, and taking into account all kind of data about movements of the forces in Donbas, we can't talk about any real ceasefire. 

I will definitely keep briefing all our foreign friends and colleagues about ongoing events, because now the whole Minsk process, especially the withdrawal of weapons, is definitely jeopardized. And we have to talk about it in a very straight forward way. 

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