KIEV, September 18 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s government on Wednesday approved the draft European Union Association Agreement, moving the country one step closer to its final signing, which is slated for November.
Moscow has been increasing pressure on Kiev to join the Customs Union, which would – in effect – keep Ukraine under Russia’s sphere of influence. Although Ukraine has observer status in this bloc, it has made it clear it does not plan to take on full membership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that the Customs Union might have to use protective measures should Ukraine sign this agreement with the EU.
Russia says it is worried that European goods could enter Ukraine – free of import duties – and then be re-exported to Customs Union countries, flooding the market and undercutting domestic producers.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Wednesday that closer cooperation with the EU opens up avenues for cooperation with Russia and other Customs Union members.
“Reforming our domestic economy will offer new opportunities to intensify cooperation with members of the Customs Union and the CIS. The association agreement […] does not contain a single clause that would hamper our plans to enhance cooperation with the Customs Union, CIS countries and other partners outside the European Union,” the premier said.
The EU’s Ukraine envoy Jan Tombinski praised the government’s approval for the draft as an “important step,” adding that there are no reasons to fear it might not be signed as planned, during the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November.
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