A long time ago in a previous job I used to lecture students and bureaucrats on the EU budgetary process. I used to hand out a mind-bogglingly complicated diagram, filled with jargon, arrows and boxes, which seemed to have been designed to be as confusing as possible.  “For a start,” I would say, “ignore that diagram.”  I no longer have it, sadly, but this PowerPoint slide gives you an idea.

Jargon is often used amongst experts as shorthand to make it easier to discuss complex concepts with which everyone is familiar.  The problem is that jargon can also baffle or confuse people.  That’s why I always seek to provide links to EU concepts such as Article 2 or the Copenhagen Criteria to help explain what they mean.

In this context, I’ve had some feedback suggesting it would be useful to explain some of the jargon (or, to put it more politely, detail) around the Association Agreement which Ukraine is negotiating with the European Union

The issue is that there is much talk of “signing”, “initialling” or “ratifying” the Association Agreement; of “concluding the negotiations”.  As always, these commonsense words have specific meanings when applied in the specialised EU context.  So, for the avoidance of any confusion, here’s what they mean:

i)  Concluding the negotiations: this means the point at which the Ukrainian and EU negotiators have finished negotiating all substantive elements of the Association Agreement.  This stage is marked by the negotiators initialling the Agreement.  This is the stage which we hope, if the negotiations go well and if both sides continue to make a superhuman effort, will be completed by the time of the EU-Ukraine Summit in December;

ii) Signing the Agreement.  After initialling, lawyers, translators and assorted experts go through the agreed texts with a fine-tooth comb making sure that there is no scope for uncertainty or difference about what has been agreed, and then translating it into the EU’s official languages.  This process takes around 6 months.  The length of the process reflects the fact that, once the Agreement has been signed by both sides, it is legally binding.  Before the European Commission can sign the Association Agreement on behalf of the EU, a further decision of the European Council, representing the EU member states, is required.

iii) Ratification: once the Association Agreement has been signed, it must be ratified by the Ukrainian Parliament, the parliaments of the 27 member states, and the European Parliament before it enters into force. I look forward to that day.

It will be worth bearing in mind these definitions as we move ahead over the next few months.  For example, when people talk about “signing” the Association Agreement this year, they don’t mean signing in the technical terms set out above – stage (ii).  What they mean is concluding the negotiation, or, to be finicky, initialling the Agreement – stage (i).  That itself, after a process of negotiation which has so far lasted 4 years and 19 rounds of negotiation, will be a big achievement.  But it’s not the end of the story. 

Leigh Turner


Ukrayinska Dumka


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