The European Council has ratified the European Union’s Association Agreement with Ukraine, formalizing the country’s relationship with Europe.
The Council’s July 11 decision to close the agreement commits the EU and Ukraine to broader political and economic cooperation.
Tomorrow, Ukraine will begin coordinating its efforts to achieve the treaty' s objectives with the EU member states, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Facebook. And starting on September 1, when the agreement comes into force, “a qualitatively new step in our path to the European Union begins,” he added.
In reality, however, most aspects of the agreement are already in force. The two parties provisionally applied political and sectoral components of the Association Agreement in September 2015. The deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) provisionally came into effect in January 2016.
The ratification marks the end of a saga that has already sharply altered the course of Ukrainian history and international affairs.
Drafted in 2012, the agreement was broadly viewed by its supporters as speeding Ukraine’s path to Europe. However, in November 2013, President Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign the treaty.
Yanukovych's decision sparked mass protests on Kyiv’s Independence Square and eventually led to his ouster in February 2014.
In the following months, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and threw its support behind two self-proclaimed separatist “people’s republics” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The ensuing conflict between Kyiv and the Russia-backed separatist has taken over 10,000 lives and undermined relations between Russia and the West.
Despite these developments, Ukraine’s post-revolution interim government recommitted the country to European integration.
In March 2014, then Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and European leaders signed the political provisions of the Association Agreement at an EU summit in Brussels. After his election to the presidency, Poroshenko signed the economic provision in June 2014.
The EU and Ukraine countersigned the visa-free agreement in Strasbourg on May 17. On June 11, 2017 the visa-free regime comes into effect for Ukrainians travelling to the EU. This new regime allows Ukrainians holding biometric passports visa-free short-term travel to EU member states and the Schengen Area for purposes other than work. They can spend 90 days in a 180-day period there, excluding travel to the UK and Ireland.
Watch and Read More: What The New Visa-Free Regime Means For Ukraine & The EU
/ by Matthew Kupfer, @Matthew_Kupfer