President Leonid Kuchma headed his country’s delegation to the second European Union-Ukraine summit, held on October 16 in Vienna. Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima, whose country currently holds the European Union’s (EU) rotating chairmanship, European Commission Chairman Jacques Santer of Luxembourg and other leaders represented the EU at the talks. Before the summit, Kyiv had unveiled its goals and expectations in relation to the European Union (see the Monitor, October 15). Some were more realistic than others, but the Vienna meeting seemed to defer the prospect of fulfillment in almost all areas.
EU leaders, while insisting on the closure of Chornobyl, did not offer a definite answer to the long-pending issue of financing the completion of two Ukrainian nuclear power reactors in compensation. The EU did, however, promise a supplementary allocation of 200 million ECUs toward reconstruction of the leaking Chernobyl sarcophagus. Fund raising for that project is well behind schedule. Ukraine’s request for negotiations toward a EU-Ukraine free trade zone and an association agreement received the answer that the existing partnership and cooperation agreement needs to be used to its full potential. That potential is modest, however. Kyiv’s request for certain exemptions from EU antidumping proceedings was also received coolly. The EU reaffirmed a political decision originally taken in 1996 to offer Ukraine a balance-of-payment support credit worth 150 million ECUs, not yet disbursed. It offered a further 15 million ECUs for development of a container shipping line in the Black Sea between Ukraine and Georgia. The EU and its member countries have provided a total of just under 4 billion ECUs in various forms of assistance to Ukraine from 1991 to 1998.
In a special memorandum, the Ukrainian side expressed concern lest it be separated from the EU area after the accession of Ukraine’s western neighbors to the EU. While fully supporting the upcoming accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech republic, Kyiv requested multilateral consultations and joint measures to avoid the creation of a dividing line between Ukraine and Europe. The EU does not seem to have worked out a response to that concern.
Summing up the meeting, Kuchma admitted that Ukraine is late in launching and implementing reforms, and that relations with the EU will have to develop only gradually. On the other hand, the Vienna meeting confirmed Kyiv’s oft-made observation that the EU seems content with a wait-and-see policy toward Ukraine despite verbal recognition of the country’s key place in Europe (Ukrainian agencies, Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), October 16-19).–VS
MOSCOW SUDDENLY EMBRACES ALIEV.