On July 8, Kyiv hosted the 21st Ukraine-EU summit, which was the first for the team of the new President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky and the last for the current EU leadership, which will soon be replaced by the results of the elections to the European Parliament. The President of Ukraine spoke about the exchange of prisoners and the fight against corruption. EU leaders assured that they support Ukraine and called the relations between Kyiv and Brussels the best of all time. "Since 1997, this is the 21st summit in general, but the first for me personally. They say it's beginner's luck," the President said in a statement at the end of the summit on Monday. "Perhaps we will not need the 22nd summit, because Ukraine will already be an integral part of Europe," Mr. Zelensky expressed hope.
The current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, who was responsible for European integration over the past five years, was not present at the summit. He's on political leave. The event was also held without the participation of the Deputy Prime Minister, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze. She wasn't on the lists of the Ukrainian delegation though, according to her, she had to be on the lists since it was done previously. The official posted on his page on Facebook that allegedly Volodymyr Groysman "held informal communication" and excluded her from the list of the delegation. She called it "sabotage". Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is convinced that the team of the new President did not understand the situation and "fell for intrigue".
In his statement, Mr. Zelensky noted that the future of the EU is impossible without peace in Ukraine. "We want to stop this war. And we want to return peace to Ukraine. But it is possible to make by the only "weapon" – the diplomacy," he said. At the same time, he stressed that sanctions are "the last civilized tool" for achieving peace. Mr. Zelensky believes that the withdrawal of troops in the Stanytsia Luhanska is a sign of progress towards a "sustainable ceasefire". He said that he had given a week to the other side to remove concrete structures and start the construction of the destroyed bridge. "We will wait for a week, maximum 8 days, and if we won’t see the dismantling from the other side, we will begin to build a bridge. I think we are ready for that. Civilians can build. We have ideas how to do it very quickly," Mr. Zelensky said. The President announced the holding of an Investment Forum on the restoration of the infrastructure of Donbass in Mariupol in September.
He also proposed to increase up to a year the period during which people from non-government-controlled areas can issue pensions in Ukraine. "But I really want to hope that in a year there will be no more this war", Mr. Zelensky told. He said that negotiations on the exchange of prisoners are continuing in Minsk. According to him, the problem is that the parties do not have the same lists for the exchange. "We are shown lists where our people are less than we know that they are in captivity there," the President said.
Volodymyr Zelensky said that on September 5, the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court will start its work in Ukraine, which will be located on Victory Avenue in Kyiv. "It sounds very symbolic, because we are not interested in the fight against corruption, but the victory over it," he said. "I believe that very soon we will not ask you for money, but the extradition of fugitive top-corruptions", the President of Ukraine addressed to the EU.
Answering questions from the media whether Europe is ready for tougher measures against Russia, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk reminded that the EU extended sanctions against Russia three weeks ago. He assumed that this would continue. The politician repeated that the EU will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and expressed his support for the Minsk Agreements. According to him, Russia should use its influence on the separatists in solving the situation in Donbass. "The European Council called on Russia to release Ukrainian sailors and ensure free passage through the Azov Sea," Mr. Tusk said. President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said he is proud of Ukraine and its partnership with the EU, and described the relationship between Ukraine and the EU "best in all times."
During the summit in Kyiv, Ukraine and the European Union also signed five bilateral agreements: Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the European Commission on the financing of the "Technical Cooperation Program 2019"; financing of the event "Anti-Corruption Initiative - The Second Phase"; financing of the event "Support to Civil Society and Culture"; additional agreement between the government of Ukraine and the European Commission on amendments to the Financing Agreement of the event " EU Support to the East of Ukraine" (additional EU contribution of 10 million euros within the framework of the Agreement); Agreement was signed between the government of Ukraine and the European Commission on the financing of the event "U-LEAD with Europe: Ukraine – Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Programme - The Second Phase".
The fourth annual Ukraine-EU summit left a somewhat mixed impression. On the one hand, everything went according to plan, agreements were signed, a real wave of news about the hundreds of millions of euros that the EU is ready to allocate for Ukraine. On the other hand, the current EU leadership is completing its powers and Ukrainian Prime Minister, Groysman has a wild goose chase to keep his post in the near future. The summit took place despite the concerns and problems — and this is a small "victory".
The chief consultant of the Department of foreign economic policy of the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS), Ivan Us notes: “At the end of May, during a meeting with the first Deputy Prime Minister, many of the participants expressed that this summit may not take place, or that will be held with a delay: "Everyone was sure by 90% that the date will be changed and the summit will be postponed to autumn. But, fortunately, during Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to Brussels it was agreed that the summit will be held without changes. The importance of this summit is that now both Ukraine and the European Union are in a transitional phase. We have held presidential elections and will soon hold parliamentary elections, that is, we can talk about a complete reset of power. In the EU, there were also elections to the European Parliament, Tusk and Juncker remain in their posts for the last few weeks. The fact that the summit is still happening is a signal from the EU that they still have faith in us.”
However, Igor Reiterovich notes that there is enough work on the way to the successful implementation of the agreements: “Despite the optimistic statements of the Ukrainian President and the summit participants, we have a lot of unresolved issues that need to be solved in the near future. And in this situation, “the ball is on the Ukrainian half of the field.” After all, we need to adopt a lot of bills, there are a lot of questions about the tranche of the International Monetary Fund, and they are somehow attached to the European integration processes of Ukraine.”
Thus, the summit fulfilled its main task — summed up the results of the "five-year plan" and set priorities for further work. But, the story with Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze demonstrated that domestic political struggle with its problems and confrontations often casts a shadow over the foreign policy of Ukraine. Therefore, the real value of the results of the high-level meetings of Ukraine with the EU, as well as the future of European integration, will be shown not by meetings and press conferences, but by the real work of the new Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
Summing up, it can be noted that the holding of the summit, for the first time in Kyiv for the newly elected President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, makes a significant contribution to the improvement of relations between the newly elected leadership of Ukraine with the EU, especially given the fact that the formation of the foreign policy team is still ongoing.