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The Riga Summit – Something in amongst the nothing

March 23, 2015

A few days ago an entry appeared here doubting the wisdom of President Poroshenko’s public rhetoric regarding Visa-free travel announcements at the Riga Summit in May.

“Clearly President Poroshenko is yet to learn to manage his own expectations, let alone those of his people – and this despite several lessons from the Europeans since Russia started its (guns and tanks) war with Ukraine.”

It concluded with this sentence expressing doubts his expectations would be realised.

“In the meantime, it seems that President Poroshenko is quite likely to be given yet another public lesson by the EU regarding “expectations”.

Today Radio Poland published a leaked document purporting to be the draft of the summit declaration – which if it is genuine,  is nevertheless subject to “tweaking” between now and the summit, although it is not likely to see any major changes.

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Visa-free for Ukraine and Georgia, clearly not to be announced at the summit according to the above draft – as this blog anticipated.

The reasons for the delay provided in the Declaration above, being that both Ukraine and Georgia still have some distance to travel before ticking all the expected (and agreed) boxes.

This statement by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union would also seem to put the Visa-free issue to bed until 2016 and the next summit.

There is also no direction mention of EU Membership, nor reference to Article 49 that provides for it.  That said, aside from offering/acknowledging some far distant aspirational goal, any such mention is currently otherwise an irrelevance.  It will take Ukraine the best part of a decade (if not longer) to fully implement and consolidate the AA/DCFTA.  Thereafter it would be faced with an average completion time of 7 years for the Acquis Communautaire – though that time may be shortened as the DCFTA takes Ukraine at least part of the way in all 31 Chapters.

The timeliness of any accession is further protracted by the 7 year EU budgetary cycle – a budget that would have to account for any enlargement.  Thus, even with a fair wind behind any Ukrainian EU membership aspirations, 2035 – 2040 would be the absolute earliest realistic accession date to the Union for Ukraine.

Quite what the EU will look like by 2035, who knows?  Whatever it looks like now, it is not likely to look the same by then.  Will Ukraine even want to join it when 2035 rolls around?  Perhaps – perhaps not!

There are, however, a few points of note within the draft Declaration.

Firstly within Paragraph 5, the text states that the majority of Member States have ratified the AA/DCFTA with Ukraine – which is currently not the case.  Indeed far from it.

True, it has long been anticipated that Germany will ratify on 27th March, however, unless there is an avalanche of ratifications between now and May, a majority of Member State ratifications there will not be.  Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden, when added to Germany, is not a majority of EU Members.

Also in Paragraph 5 there is the confirmation that the AA/DCFTA comes into full force with effect from 1st January 2016.  This reaffirms there will be no room for the Kremlin to undo this bilateral agreement, other than the “wiggle room” within any text that can be employed to sooth its ire somewhat.

Paragraph 10 would seem to provide access to the new Sustainable Municipal Development flagship initiative, which Ukrainian municipalities would be wise to fully embrace.

Paragraph 20 appears to openly encourage commitment to, and engagement with, the EU DCFTA facility – particularly useful for Ukrainian SMEs in search of funding – as well as the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) programme, which also allows for funding as well as market access.

Lastly, Paragraph 21 appears to predict the launch of a new platform linking academic communities – and the linking of academics and universities is something that this blog has been proactively doing of late behind the curtain.

Thus, it appears that President Poroshenko’s political capital will take yet another (self-inflicted) unnecessary hit within the Ukrainian constituency due to his unwise public, populist rhetoric – this time regarding expectations of Visa-free for Ukrainians by the year end.

Perhaps by association the EU will also take a hit in political capital too.

There are however, some positives for SMEs and academia to be found within the draft declaration – if, firstly, they ever get to know about the programmes, and secondly can find somebody to assist them in navigating the EU grant bureaucracy effectively.  A promotion, knowledge and access issue amplified by orders of magnitude the further outside of the Kyiv ring road an academic or SME happens to be.

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