The Association Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine is withoutexaggeration the most extensive package of agreements in the history of independentUkraine. But if for the European Union the Association Agreement means the successof the Eastern Partnership policy, then for Ukraine this Agreement is in fact a choice of astrategic direction for reforming the country and further integration into the system ofmodern world economic relations1. The Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraineis a comprehensive treaty covering Ukraine’s political and economic relationship with the EU.
The trade-related content establishes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA),which is an important part of the overall Agreement2.On July 11 this year, the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was ratified.Every conscious citizen of our country raises the question, and what’s next?What can we have from the Agreement, which became a peculiar symbol for Ukrainians. Thesymbol of belonging to Europe, European ideas and European way of life.From now on, the Agreement must transform from a symbol to a forward movement.
But thiswill not happen by itself, as maybe someone would like it. We must be aware that Ukraine willonly be able to use the modernization potential of the Agreement as efficiently as possible,provided that its obligations are clear, timely and complete. And this will require an adequateintellectual understanding of contemporary socioeconomic problems and processes, relevantpolitical efforts, institutional capacity and financial expenditures3.After all, the meaning of the Agreement is not at all in tariff commitments. And the effect ofthe entry into force of the Agreement may not be as clear to citizens as the introduction of avisa-free regime with the EU.
And when the positive momentous effects of theimplementation of the agreement have already been made, let’s understand what influencethis association has on the future of Ukraine.4.During this time, significant socio-political and economic transformations took place in ourcountry.
The level of political freedoms has changed, the role of civil society, the level ofconsciousness, the demand for reforms in society and the recognition of theircompetitiveness in business have become new. The EU rules and regulations to be implemented in accordance with the Agreement are basedon the idea of a social market economy, which in turn is a cornerstone of the social order ofthe Member States.Similarly, the Association Agreement: its implementation is impossible without thecooperation of authorities with business, social partners, public activists. At the same time,the implementation of the legislative and technocratic norms envisaged by the Agreementradically changes the very social fabric of its society and in practice transforms Ukraine into astate with a social market economy, as enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine5.As an example, the introduction of EU standards in the gas market, membership in the EnergyCommunity made it possible, physically, through the construction of an interconnector, tointegrate the Ukrainian gas market with the EU, to diversify supplies and to ensure gasindependence from the Russian Federation.The Ukrainian gas market becomes clear to European companies that really make themplayers. Mutual legal obligations between Ukraine and the EU are a solid basis for protectinginterests both in litigation with Gazprom and in the attempts of the Russian Federation tounbalance the gas market in the EU by constructing the “North Stream 2″6.
The association agreement is not something that is fixed in time and space, but is a flexibletool that allows you to move forward and adapt to new forms of activity as we want it.There is nothing in the Agreement that can be neglected. It covers all spheres of life wherethere is a real chance to get closer to the EU level. Moreover, fulfilment of the formalprovisions of the Agreement is impossible without structural reforms, not expresslymentioned in the Agreement. Let’s take an example of financial services and the capitalmarket. The agreement enables Ukraine to fully integrate into the relevant EU market, whichgives the economy access to cheap and long-term financing. But to realize this opportunitywithout a radical purge of the financial market and without modern monetary policy isimpossible.
On the contrary, the actual technical requirements for the implementation of the statisticalcompendium of the EU or the system of public accounts of the ECA 95 (no matter howcomplicated these terms appear at first glance) make it possible to make informed decisionsabout the overwhelming structural reforms of the budget, tax system and pension system.In the end, the Association Agreement is not only a matter of national level. The EU’s basicprinciple is subsidiarity, according to which matters concerning the region are solved at thelowest – local level, and not at the national or EU level. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an active stratum of those who can initiate and solve issues at the local level, and this decisionthen becomes the basis for the national, and not vice versa.The ability to combine global and local is one of the peculiarities of the EU. We must learnhow to use it actively in the process of decentralization. But this process is becoming feasibledue to the economic development of communities and regions, including through economicintegration with the EU.
Such an interweaving of the Agreement with all transformational processes in the societyrequires from state institutions somewhat more than simple bureaucratic planning andreporting.First of all, the parliament and the government must learn to be consistent. It is paradoxical,according to the logic of European partners, that the parliament first votes for ratification ofthe Association Agreement, and then adopts bills that violate and contradict the provisions ofthe Agreement and our country’s commitment to the WTO.This discussion can go for a long time, but we must understand that EU trust is a key in theimplementation of any agreement at the national level7.For today, the main problem in the development of our state in the direction of Europeanstandards remains the existing system. It does not allow us to develop effectively. And wemust be aware of this.
The post-Soviet system did not include mechanisms for developmentand self-improvement.In contrast, it is precisely the idea of an Association Agreement. After all, the entry into forceof the Agreement changes the logic of relations between Ukraine and the EU. It requires us toproperly implement its provisions, and from the EU – a proper attitude to Ukraine in makingits decisions.Ukraine, having passed the Maidan, left the post-Soviet space, but has not yet entered theEuropean dimension.
And so at this stage there should be a huge system work, which in thefirst place requires us to reformat our thinking. In our lexicon, new terms should appear: goodgovernance and best practices.Recognition of Ukrainian products in line with EU requirements facilitates access to marketsof third countries.
The abolition of the visa regime with the EU greatly facilitates the work, inparticular, of Ukrainian producers with other countries in this direction.This Association Agreement was sufficient advertising for Ukrainian products (grain, vegetableoil and metal are still sold through traders and do not need no advertising). But further promotion can only be ensured by thorough implementation of it8.
The same is true with themain symbol in relations with the EU – the prospect of EU membership.It is possible to wait for signals and promises of EU membership for a long time. And it ispossible to implement the Agreement in order to show the consistency of our intentions. Andturn the issue of further integration with the EU into a completely practical and pragmaticone. Then a mutually beneficial formula for integration is found almost by itself. We alreadyfeel that all process participants are actively looking for it. However, it is not formulated inphrases and slogans, but should become a natural result of our integration into all Europeanspaces.It should also be noted that the EU and Ukraine are constantly evolving, and therefore theemergence of new socioeconomic realities and regulatory requirements will objectivelyrequire the parties to seek answers to new challenges and develop mutual cooperation, goingbeyond the mere implementation of the provisions of the Association Agreement9.
In otherwords, it is about how Ukraine and the EU will be able to use the potential of the Agreementto really enrich the forms and content of cooperation and provide an adequate coordinatedresponse to current and future regional and global issues.There is one more point which should be emphasized separately. Implementation of theAgreement is a long process.
And the main responsibility for its success lies with thepoliticians and the Government, because they form and implement the relevant economicpolicy. Ultimately, it is up to them whether the Association Agreement will be an effectivetool for reforms and modernization of Ukraine or the Agreement will remain a formaldocument, and the idea of European integration and its changes will be simply discredited10.We must realize that the ratification of the Association Agreement and visa-free regime hascome to an end of a certain stage and that without our concentrated and strategicallyplanned work, further political shifts may simply not happen.And vice versa, such work will lead to results faster than anyone can imagine. We only have totake a step forward.