Representatives of the EU and Ukraine attended the 2019 Association Council meeting today to discuss progress on bilateral trade and reform.
The 2019 Association Council marks the first full year since the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, comprising the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between the two parties; and the visa-free regime which allows Ukrainian citizens to travel freely throughout the EU. In that time, trade and reform have both progressed substantially and more than 500,000 Ukrainians have taken advantage of the visa-free regime.
Following the Kerch Strait incident in November, which saw Russian forces fire on Ukrainian vessels and detain their crew members, the 2019 Association Council expressed strong condemnation for Russia’s actions and discussed the possibility of providing targeted EU support in the region. The EU has proposed to send an assessment mission to Ukraine in early 2019.
The 2019 Association Council acknowledged the progress made by Ukraine in implementing the Association Agreement, maintaining a renewed commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law. In the wake of the EU-Ukraine Summit in July 2018, the parties agreed to continue open lines of communication around Ukraine’s initiative to increase international cooperation in fields such as energy, justice, customs and the digital economy. It was agreed that the Association Agreement would evolve in line with updated EU law and international standards.
Delegates at the 2019 Association Council affirmed their support for UN Security Council Resolution 2166, calling on Russia to accept responsibility over the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in 2014; and condemned in strong terms the continued Russian annexation of Crimean territories. A joint press release issued by the Council said: “The EU reaffirmed its policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol by Russia. The construction of the Kerch bridge constitutes a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The 2019 Association Council condemned the ongoing militarisation of the peninsula by Russia and the further deterioration of the human rights situation there, including persecution of Crimean Tatars and those who do not recognise the illegal annexation [and] called for the immediate release of Oleh Sentsov and all illegally detained and imprisoned Ukrainian citizens in the Crimean peninsula and in Russia.”
The EU and Ukraine will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership in spring 2019.