On Friday, March 21, Ukraine and the European Union finally signed part of the Association Agreement. The date is significant because it is four months to the day Ukrainians went down to Kyiv’s Independence Square to protest then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to turn down the agreement in favor of a bailout from Russia.
Important moment: Political provisions of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement now signed pic.twitter.com/QWIxLCX9us
– Herman Van Rompuy (@euHvR) March 21, 2014
The leaders of the 28 EU states, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk signed the agreement in Brussels. Rompuy said it showed support for Ukrainians.
This gesture symbolises the importance that both sides attach to this relationship, and our joint will to take it further. It recognises the aspirations of the people of Ukraine to live in a country governed by values, by democracy and the rule of law, where all citizens have a stake in national prosperity. And the popular yearning for a decent life as a nation, for a European way of life.
According to their Conclusions on Ukraine, the EU promised to sign the remainder of the agreement after the presidential election on May 25. Here are a few other major points from the Conclusions.
The European Union remains committed to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The European Council firmly believes that there is no place for the use of force and coercion to change borders in Europe in the 21st century.
The European Council recalls that any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine would lead to additional and far reaching consequences for relations in a broad range of economic areas between the European Union and its Member States, on the one hand, and the Russian Federation, on the other hand.
Once the elections are held on May 25 the EU will sign the trade portion of the deal, which will open the Ukraine economy to Europe. Reuters reported there are 500 million consumers for the Ukraine market. Yatsenyuk is pleased with this first step.
Mr Yatsenyuk said this was a “historic day”, adding: “We want to be a part of the big European family and this is the first tremendous step in order to achieve for Ukraine its ultimate goal, as a full-fledged member.”
He added that “the best way to contain Russia is to impose real economic leverage”.
The EU followed President Obama’s steps and increased their sanctions against Russia to include those in Russia President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. These include visa bans and asset freezes against 12 people, which brought the total to 33 people. The EU did not release the list, but Rompuy reassured everyone that important people were included.
The agreement was not the only historic signing on Friday morning. Russia President Vladimir Putin signed all the bills to complete the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine to the Russian Federation.