"So it seems to me," the Ukrainian business leader says, "that Ukraine is so important to the EU that they'll overlook Mrs Tymoshenko and recent declines in democratic standards and we'll sign the Association Agreement in December."

"No," I say.  "That's won't happen, for several reasons."

I'm visiting an important Ukrainian enterprise which does a lot of trade with the EU, the CIS and the rest of the world.  I've toured their impressive premises, stuffed with high-tech equipment and employing large numbers of people.  Now we're chatting in the office of the head of the outfit, an impressive and thoughtful businessman.

"First," I say, "it's important to clarify the difference between initialling, signing and ratifying the Association Agreement.  If Ukraine and the EU both work hard, it may still be possible to initial the Association Agreement in December.  But with every day which goes past without substantive negotiations, that becomes less likely.  The EU is ready to initial the Agreement, together with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, once negotiations are complete.

"But signature and ratification of the Association Agreement," I go on, "cannot happen until at least six months after initialling - for a full explanation, check out the blog linked above.  And as the UK and EU have made clear, unless opposition leaders detained as a result of flawed trials are released and able to participate in political activity, it's highly unlikely that member states will sign and ratify the Association Agreement.  Without that, Ukraine won't get the benefits of either the Association Agreement or the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.  This is important for the future of Ukraine.  Any delay will make me a bit sad, because I'm keen to see the Association Agreement and DCFTA implemented as soon as possible.  But the EU can't compromise on core democratic principles."

"Well," the business leader says.  "At least that's clear.  And I agree with your policy.  But do the Ukrainian authorities understand all that?"

"I hope so," I say.  "But since you weren't sure, perhaps some other people aren't either.  I'll do a blog underlining again the difference between initialling, signature and ratification.  I hope you're reading the blog."

"I'll do that," he says. 

Leigh Turner

Ukrayinska Dumka


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