Eu/ukraine: Ministers Set Wheels in Motion for Stronger Ties

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Relations and reforms.

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn - who led the EU delegation* - expressed his admiration for the recent "peaceful revolution" in Ukraine, saying the country was now well on the way to becoming a stable, dynamic and prosperous neighbour of the EU. He added that "more democracy will bring more stability, both within Ukraine and with regard to its relations with its neighbours".

Mr Asselborn underlined that the EU-Ukraine Action Plan adopted in February under European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) would enable the two parties to establish a solid and effective partnership. The EU side confirmed its wish to support the process of democratisation and transition in Ukraine. The Luxembourg Minister assured the Ukrainian authorities of "the European Unions full support for the new governments implementation of economic, political and institutional reforms".

He added that the Luxembourg EU Presidency was committed to working together with Ukraine to strengthen EU-Ukraine relations, confirming that a first evaluation of progress would be drawn up at the next EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council on June 13 in Luxembourg. "Furthering our relations will depend to a large extent on Ukraines progress with implementing internal reforms and reforms aimed at bringing Ukrainian legislation into line with that of the European Union", Mr Asselborn pointed out.

On the eve of the meeting, European Commissioner for External Relations and ENP Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that the EU-Ukraine action plan was rich in possibilities: "As soon as it was endorsed we lost no time in getting down to work and have already made progress towards its implementation. This troika meeting will help us to keep the momentum going".

President Yushchenko reportedly stated Ukraine's high hopes for European integration and stressed that Ukraine was committed to attaining European standards. He also underlined the need to fill the EU-Ukraine action plan with concrete steps. Oleh Rybachuk, Ukraine's Vice Premier responsible for Euro-integration, has indicated that a document setting out Ukraine's priorities for implementing the EU-Ukraine action plan will be presented to the EU at an April 22 EU-Ukraine Cooperation Committee meeting in Brussels.

Market-economy status.

Ukraine's long-held hopes of being awarded "market-economy status" (for anti-dumping purposes) by the EU also came up on March 30. Mr Tarasiuk said he thought that consultations between Ukraine and the European Commission to be held on April 11 might prove decisive for recognising Ukraine as a market economy nation. He expressed the hope that the question would be resolved by the time of the June Cooperation Council.

The award of "market-economy status" is essentially a technical issue that has practical effect in the context of EU anti-dumping trade procedures. Instead of using proxy costs and third-country prices to decide whether goods were being sold at unfairly low prices in the EU, Ukrainian companies' own costs and prices would be used to calculate dumping margins. But the matter is also one of political and symbolic significance for Kiev, especially as Russia has already been given the market-economy status by the EU. EU officials have said that Ukrainian bankruptcy law must apply to all companies, and state control of prices in certain areas removed before the status could be awarded.

Transdnistria.

As well as internal developments in Ukraine and the EU and EU-Ukraine ties, the two sides touched on regional and international topics such as Russia, Moldova, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. They looked at possibilities for closer cooperation between the EU, Ukraine and Moldova with a view to resolving the latter's conflict involving the breakaway Transdnistria region. …