Talking points for communication in the Netherlands on the EU-Ukraine Association AgreementKey theses on the Association Agreement (AA):
• The AA means development of trade, elimination of corruption, stability, protection of human rights in Ukraine and cooperation with the EU, which means the support and expertise of the EU applied to reforms in the aforesaid areas;
• The AA DOES NOT mean granting Ukraine the prospect of EU membership;
• Voting against the AA does not mean voting against the EU;
• The objective of the AA is to transform Ukraine into a stable and prosperous democracy with effective economy, attractive to the business;
• Through the AA, EU entrepreneurs would get better access to the 45 million people market;
• Ukrainian migrants are not a threat to the EU, as Ukraine has already invested significant re-sources into strengthening security on its borders with the member states;
• The EU already has cooperation agreements with over 25 countries around the world, such as Israel, Lebanon, several Central American and South American states. Those agreements have al-ready proved their worth;
• The President, the Parliament and the Government of Ukraine are taking the implementation of the Agreement seriously, as Ukraine has already adopted a number of laws required to start the process of implementation of the AA.
• Emphasize that the AA does not provide the EU membership perspective for Ukraine. Kyiv knows well that the country is not yet ready for accession to the EU. Application for membership is not a part of Ukraine’s agenda;
• Emphasize that the AA between Ukraine and the EU is first of all a democratic choice of the citizens of Ukraine;
• Emphasize that the AA is primarily aimed at internal reforms in Ukraine targeting development of trade, fighting corruption, stability, protection of human rights and cooperation with the EU;
• Emphasize that through the AA Ukraine would establish effective mechanisms of counteracting discrimination, including sexual orientation;
• Be realistic about the reform process; admit that the AA would not solve all problems of Ukraine immediately. Ukraine still has a lot to do, and this agreement would be helpful.
• Explain what adopting “European values” means: more democracy, human rights, rule of law, etc.
• Stress that Ukraine is a sovereign state and does not accept interference of other countries into internal affairs.
• Steer discussion away from broader debates back to the key issues of the AA.
Frequently asked questions to be ready for:
• Which specific reforms cannot be implemented in Ukraine without the Association Agreement?
Suggested answer: The Agreement is an internationally binding document, and its implementation is mandatory for Ukraine. As part of the Agreement, Ukraine undertakes to implement a number of reforms that will not only change the current legislation of Ukraine in such fields as trade, envi-ronmental standards, and social security (working conditions, etc.), but also will bring it as close as possible to the EU standards reflected in the laws of the European Union (acquis communautaire).
• How exactly would the Association Agreement help to fight corruption in Ukraine?
Suggested answer: The Association Agreement obliges Ukraine to implement reforms aimed at fighting corruption in a number of sectors, including improving the business climate. Moreover, the Agreement lists rule of law and fighting corruption among the “key elements of strengthening the cooperation between the parties.” Some articles of the Agreement (e.g., articles 20 and 22) are di-rectly targeting combat not only against corruption, but also against offshore business, money laundering, and illegal business. Through changes in legislative, judicial and administrative systems of Ukraine according to the European model, money laundering via the EU member states will become impossible in Ukraine.
• Can you guarantee that Ukraine will not apply for membership in the EU tomorrow?
Suggested answer: The Association Agreement does not imply the EU membership perspective for Ukraine. Kyiv knows well that the country is not yet ready for accession to the EU. Application for the membership is not a part of Ukraine’s current agenda. There is no clause on membership in the AA, unlike the Agreements that were made with e.g. Croatia, Bulgaria, or Romania. In addi-tion, each of the EU member states, including the Netherlands, has a veto right on accession of new members and can use it when necessary.
• You claim that there are ongoing reforms in Ukraine, and their successful implementation re-quires assistance from the EU. However, the opinion polls show that the citizens of Ukraine do not feel any changes. Isn’t it paradoxical?
Suggested answer: It is true that Ukrainian government is not perfect and sometimes imitates re-forms rather than actually implements them. The Association Agreement is not only an internation-ally binding document that holds Ukraine responsible for its implementation, but also an additional instrument of pressure on the Ukrainian authorities available for the civil society. Public opinion polls measure public attitudes compared to the expectations, and we know these are extremely high.
• Ukraine belongs to the sphere of Russian influence. It has been agreed between Russia/NATO/EU after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Suggested answer: Ukraine is a sovereign state and is free to choose its own perspective on strate-gic cooperation with its neighbors. There is no agreement on spheres of influence. For its part, Ukraine has always sought to build good relations with both Russia and the EU on a partnership basis.
• Would the free trade zone with Ukraine provide opportunities for “normal” EU businesses, and not only for Ukrainian oligarchs and multinational corporations?
Suggested answer: The FTA aims at standardization of commercial laws and removing restrictions; therefore, any EU company would have the same access to Ukrainian market and partners as to the market and partners in Belgium or Poland.
• Do Ukrainians themselves support the Association Agreement?
Suggested answer: According to several opinion polls conducted over recent years, a clear majority of Ukrainians are in favour of adopting European values and standards.
• There is war in Ukraine. Is it safe to sign the Association Agreement with a country at war?
Suggested answer: The global practice shows that war is not an obstacle for reforms. Israel and Georgia, which, despite the war with Russia in 2008, continued its course of reforms and has shown impressive results in combating corruption, are the most vivid examples. Please note that the Association Agreements have been also signed with Moldova and Georgia that both have parts of their territories under “frozen conflicts.” Back in the day, an unresolved conflict has not pre-vented the Republic of Cyprus to even become a member of the EU. In addition, any conflicts tend to be resolved, sooner or later, while the Association Agreement is far-reaching and strategic document that would help achieve stability, growth and prosperity. Finallly it should be noted that the war only affects a very small part of the country. Most of the country is stable and peaceful.
• What would be the cost of the AA for the EU?
Suggested answer: A number of articles of the AA (453-459) do imply financial assistance to be provided through the IMF in the form of loans, but not grants, in a clear interdependence with the implementation of reforms; those loans will be subject to strict control by the EU. Unlike the states that are preparing to join the EU, the Agreement does not provide massive financial aid to Ukraine. The European Union has been continuously providing assistance to Ukraine within the framework of cooperation and development; nevertheless, that aid is not tied to the Association Agreement.
On the other hand, benefits from the AA for EU businesses could be illustrated with specific fig-ures.